How to Tactfully Ask People to Wear a Mask?
It is no easy feat to adjust to all the new social norms amid a global pandemic, especially those rules and recommendations surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. One touchy subject amidst all this is encouraging friends and family to practice proper pandemic etiquettes. But an even more challenging feat is asking a stranger to adhere to appropriate COVID-19 guidelines. There are several ways that you could approach the person who is failing to maintain their distance or any store employee who has let their mask slip, without inciting any type of conflict.
Health experts and doctors worldwide agree that the etiquettes surrounding the coronavirus pandemic can be quite thorny. But it is a fact that asking others to wear a mask or practice social distancing is extremely important for your health and helps spread the disease in the community. Fingering through various food items, whether bagged or unbagged, isn’t the singular way people break the norms and rules of preventing virus spread in the community during a pandemic. They could be failing to maintain proper distancing norms, too, or may have let their mask slip. There are a lot of new dos and don’ts in this age of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the one hand, you care a lot about people’s safety and believe others ought to stick to the norms and the healthy well-being of the general public. On the other hand, if we look, it could be very awkward to encourage others to follow proper guidelines during these challenging times. You, of course, do not want to come across as rude. But, the world is facing a pandemic now. The carelessness of even a single person puts a lot of people at high risk.
A clinical director at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, of the Division of INFECTIOUS Diseases, Dr. Paul Sax, says that the key is to strike a balance between politeness and social health at this time. It will help if you start by choosing your battles. He says that it is good to initially channel your focus on the highest risk situations such as in instances where you think an individual poses a danger to you and others, and where you consider your intervention will help.
This point will most apply to indoor spaces with large crowds, such as markets or other public gatherings. It is probably smart not to waste your energy by acting or speaking out on low-risk examples in this light. For instance, you could disregard the jogger going by without a mask or an unmasked family having a picnic, among such other lower-risk situations. In public settings, the instances you have identified as potentially high risk include a person touching fruits or vegetables in the market.
You need to put in some thought about conveying your message in the most “non-threatening way.” Harvard Medical School physician Dr. Abraar Karan says that shaming would never work. Shaming has never been used in past epidemics and nor could it work in this pandemic. The critical point here is to be kind and communicate your concerns clearly without stigmatizing the other person or making them feel at fault. He says that in such a situation, he would say, “Hey there- here’s some hand sanitizer. Please use it.” Hey, also say that you could nudge a person not wearing a mask and tell them, “Wearing a mask protects you and others.”
This short and straightforward comment goes a long way too. Furthermore, since most of these encounters will be public, you mustn’t get too technical, Sax says. He explains that strangers would want to hear you expound on epidemiological studies and that public places are not the correct settings for these “didactic exchanges.” Sometimes, you could even feel that trying to correct strangers’ behaviors may feel quite awkward or pointless.
Karan says that in most cases, people’s decision to not adhere to all the health requirements and social norms could come down to differences in beliefs and values rather than apathy or forgetfulness. He says that there are also people who may not believe the data given on masks and maybe further skeptical of the CDC’s position change on covers. For the remaining percentage of people, it may just be a matter of ‘personal rights.’ In these cases, you need to exercise sound judgment, which all health officials suggest and stress. Another strategy that Karan stresses is similar to “defensive driving.”
It means that in some cases, it is okay to make sure that your mask is correctly donned on, and you try to keep your distance from the person who is in question for not following social norms. Sax says that in most cases serving as a role model works nicely, and it could be thought of as peer pressure. The only person who has complete control over you is yourself. Ensure that you wear a mask and follow all other essential protocols in public to help establish these actions as the new social norms that would push other people to adopt these behaviors.
Now, you would have probably got the idea that is merely yelling “Mask Up” at someone won’t work. People’s opinions vary in how they perceive and tolerate risk and how physically and psychologically vulnerable they are. Most of the conversations with a stranger or even a co-worker could be difficult. Ensure that your own emotions are not clouding the message you want to convey. For example, if you become angry, anxious, outraged, or fearful, the person you are talking to might not hear the message you intended. These conversations could potentially backfire.
Now you might be wondering what works. It is evident that if you plan to communicate well, you need to prepare. The book Crucial Conversations’ authors suggest asking yourself what you want to achieve as an outcome and what you want the other person to perceive about you from the conversation. The key is to keep the exchange respectful and open communication lines so that negotiations can continue easily if other challenging times arise in the future. You can’t, of course, completely change someone’s beliefs or actions. A better aim that you should choose is to negotiate a change in the other person’s behavior to minimize harm.
The essential attributes that will help you have a conversation with someone actually to change their mind are respect, empathy, and appeal to their values. Identifying and respecting the importance of the person you are talking to and finding deals in common helps reduce defensiveness and opens the grounds for negotiation. Another helpful tool is asking someone why they are not wearing a mask instead of telling them to wear one. It is also providing you a chance to be heard and reduce the other person’s events getting defensive. There may be a lot of reasons why a person is not wearing a mask. Hearing them explain themselves could provide you ample opportunity to solve the problem, especially if you ask if and how you can help and if you refrain from giving advice. Compassion or empathy will also allow you to understand and support the other person’s position and views while maintaining your own. If you are talking to a friend or family member, empathy can also help preserve the relationship well while insisting on a boundary, such as telling them to wear a mask or follow social norms.
Health officials say that the coronavirus pandemic has opened up a Pandora’s Box of new considerations for proper etiquettes and acceptable behavior in all kinds of public settings, including the workplace. There are some overarching precautions that you need to keep in mind when you go back to a physical workplace to ensure that you are as safe as possible. In general, Dr. Abraar Karan recommends wearing your mask as much as possible, especially if you are indoors and close to your co-workers and colleagues.
Scientists suspect that indoors coronavirus can be transmitted even when people are six feet apart, depending on the room’s ventilation and the duration for which droplet clouds containing viral particles linger in the air. Dr. Karan says that wearing your mask is the very best idea unless you are utterly alone in your office. However, Dr. Paul Sax says that though it might be okay to remove your mask if you happen to be in an exceptionally well-ventilated room. And maintain 6 feet distance from co-workers; it might not be enough to prevent contact with viral particles. So, as a rule, you are better off keeping your mask on.
There are pieces of evidence showing that some groups of men, such as the younger men or politically conservative men, men with lower health literacy, and men who endorse more traditional notions of masculinity, are mostly the ones who resist wearing a mask. Thus, non-judgemental
communication is the most effective with such men. Suppose you are non-judgemental, empathetic, and clear in what you want to achieve. In that case, you can rise above counterproductive reactions such as jumping in to tell someone off or facing defensive responses from the person you are conversing with; this opens the doors for two-way conservation and works in changing a person’s mind into following proper social norms.