The coronavirus pandemic has no doubt changed your life in significant ways including how you communicate with others. Since any communication skills training should help you speak with more clarity, confidence and credibility, let’s look at some strategies for handling one of the new challenges you may be facing. Wanh, wanh, wanh, wanh, wanh, wanh, wanh. If you’re living in a neighborhood where people are encouraged, or required, to wear a mask in public places, this presents a real clarity challenge. With a mask over your face your voice is quieter, your pronunciation is muffled and listeners get no visual cues from your lips. If you already speak with a quiet voice, then adding a mask to the equation compounds the problem.
Make sure you’re using your whole voice. That doesn’t mean you have to yell. It does mean you have to open your mouth, use plenty of breath support and maximize resonance. I’ve noticed that people with a lot of oral and nasal resonance tend to be heard more clearly than others when speaking through a mask. This is one situation where effectiveness trumps beauty. It’s more important to communicate clearly than to produce beautiful sounds. So go ahead, and turn up the nasality. E-Nun-See-Ate! If you mumble, run words together or even drop certain consonant sounds, having a mask over your mouth will just magnify the problem. Now is the time to exaggerate your diction. Make those /p/, /t/ and /k/ sounds pop, especially in the middle of words and at the end. Speak at a deliberate pace. Unless you’re a trained professional, fast speech will always make your pronunciation less precise.
Pause frequently and speak with shorter phrases. Be in charge of your delivery and don’t let your motor mouth run away with you. Not only will you be clearer, you’ll sound more confident and credible. No one likes wearing a mask. They’re hot, they look weird and they leave marks on your face. But right now safety and responsibility comes before comfort and fashion. And when it comes to communication skills, the need for clarity and effectiveness supersedes personal speech mannerisms and doing what feels natural to you. This is no time to let your habits control and sabotage your communication.
Take responsibility. Be aware of potential challenges and speak with the needs of your listeners in mind. Being clear is one thoughtful thing you can do to reduce the stress we’re all feeling. And keeping me humble, I was just in a noisy store, wearing a mask. I stepped up to the counter and placed my order, applying everything I just told you, and the clerk said, “I didn’t get a word of that.” Gah! And I call myself a voice coach! Thanks for watching. What specific COVID-related communication challenges are you facing and how have you handled them? Stay well, and I’ll see you in the next video, without this wretched mask. Whew! COVID Communication Skills Speaking Through a Mask