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SMILING WITH A MASK ON

With face masks now part of our everyday lives, how do we compensate for the apparent loss of the friendliest facial gesture of all—the smile? If a person is friendly, will you recognize it? If you smile, will he or she know it?

The answer is yes — it’s still worth it to smile while wearing a mask, says body language expert Janine Driver, founder and president of the Body Language Institute in Washington, D.C.

“We’re lucky a lot of information shows up in the eyes and the eyebrows,” Driver, who was trained as a lie detection expert and teaches online courses about the techniques, said. “With true happiness, we see it with the wrinkles on the side of our eyes.”

Even above a mask, you can see the raised cheeks and narrowed but sparkling eyes that indicate a smile (also known as smiling eyes). There are also additional ways to help get that smile across more easily:

Take off your sunglasses
Wearing a mask and sunglasses while talking with someone is a deal breaker: "You are blocking how you are feeling from the world. When we can't see your eyes, we can't interpret your emotions, and if we can't interpret your emotions, we are left with uncertainty and this uncertainty leads to us not trusting you and us feeling uncomfortable around you," Driver said.Keep your three “power zones” open
They include the throat, belly button, and groin areas. Blocking them by crossing your arms or holding your throat blocks rapport, Driver noted. Keeping them open increases your approachability and likability.Be mindful of your head tilt
Tilting your head to the side while talking or listening is seen as compassionate; keeping it straight on your shoulders is saying “I command attention,” Driver noted. If someone is standing too close to you in line, for example, and you want to ask them to keep their distance, doing so with a head tilt may be more effectiveWatch the eyes
Relaxed eyes mean a person is feeling comfortable. When they begin to narrow, as if someone is threading a needle, the person may be stressed, upset, or feeling threatened, Driver said.Pupils dilate when we're feeling comfortable; they constrict when people see something they don't like.If you can see the white of the eyes "north, south, east and west" of the iris, that person is likely afraid, she noted.Observe the eyebrows
You can observe sadness when a person's inner eyebrows are pulled together and up. Eyebrow muscles are some of the hardest muscles to manipulate, Driver said. The brows come down in anger and up in surprise.Try to position yourself at eye level with others when possible
People are communicating with their eyes more than ever before. Many deaf people, for example, rely on reading lips (although there are now clear masks available so you can see the other person’s mouth). Maintaining contact at eye level makes it easier to read emotions in someone’s eyes. 

Find other creative ways to smile

Some people have even created “surrogate smiles,” like the clever health care workers at Stanford Health Care in California who pasted their smiling pictures on their lab coats!

The bottom line is: Your face is your vehicle for showing emotions, even when a large part of it is covered up. Keep smiling behind the mask!

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Friday, 25 September 2020
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