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COVID-19 Communication Challenges – Tips for Success

COVID-19 Communication Challenges

Wearing masks and social distancing can help prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, social distancing can make it more difficult to hear others, and masks muffle sound, making it harder to understand what’s being said. Masks also diminish our ability to benefit from visual cues, such as seeing the other person’s lip movements and facial expressions. While masks and social distancing are necessary to combat the spread of COVID-19, it’s important to acknowledge that they can also make communication even more challenging for non-native English speakers. Here are the ways these safety measures can affect communication, and tips on how to communicate more effectively while taking precautions.

How COVID-19 Safety Measures Impede Communication

Face masks and social distancing can make communication more difficult because:

  1. Speech is quieter the further away we stand from each other, so following social distancing guidelines makes the speech of another person more difficult to hear.
  2. It can be harder for us to focus our attention on the other person’s speech because other sounds in the environment may be competing with what’s being said.
  3. The physical barrier created by masks muffles speech. Masks essentially serve as low pass audio filters, primarily blocking high frequency sounds, such as “f,” “s,” “sh,” and “th,” which are important to understanding English.
  4. Both masks and communicating at a distance make it difficult, if not impossible, to rely on visual communication cues, such as facial expressions and lip reading.

How to Communicate Effectively While Practicing COVID-19 Safety Measures

Here are some practical tips to help you communicate while wearing a mask and maintaining at least six feet between you and the person you’re speaking to.

  • Good eye contact is even more important than usual. Make sure you have your communication partner’s attention when speaking.
  • Make sure there are no physical barriers between you and the person you’re speaking to.
  • If you’re outdoors, be mindful of other sounds in the environment (including other people talking), and consider waiting a moment, if needed, before continuing to speak. Move to a quieter place if you can.
  • Talk a little louder (but don’t shout), and enunciate clearly.
  • Slightly slow down the rate of your speech. Allowing a little more space between your words can help the listener better understand you.
  • Nod when appropriate to acknowledge you are listening and understanding.
  • Smile with your eyes!

Speaking and listening are undoubtedly more difficult with masks and social distancing. However, being patient with yourself and your speaking partner, slowing down your speech, and nodding to indicate understanding can all help you get your message across.

Are you a non-native speaker of English?

Do you speak English with a strong accent? Do you find communicating with a face mask or from a distance even more challenging? Accent reduction training can help you improve communications by improving the clarity of your speech. Reducing your accent so that your message is understood more easily and quickly by others can go a long way in helping you improve the effectiveness of your communications. American accent training can be a worthwhile investment for non-native speakers who find that others struggle to understand their speech. Accent reduction classes are an especially good investment if you are a professional looking to advance your career, or a job seeker trying to enter the job market.

If you liked this article you also might like to read 3 Ways to improve your Virtual Communication

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