Why a smile is so important when working with face masks

Here is a post that we saw on a deaf Facebook group:

“Does anyone have a customer-facing role at work?”  “How are you coping with all the surgical masks?”
“I’m beginning to struggle; I need lips to read and am fed up with people telling me to use the loop system as it’s not ideal for me.”

This is a struggle for both employees and customers who are deaf or with hearing loss, as face masks are being used more and more in face-to-face environments.


For many deaf people, lipreading plays an important part in communication.

Whether totally relying on lipreading (which is never 100% accurate, especially in noisy environments) or for gaining additional information.
It is an essential part of communication.

And it is not just lipreading – facial expressions also have an impact, especially if you can’t hear the intonation in someone’s voice.

Professor Mehrabian famously looked at the statistical results from studies that showed that communication is:

7% verbal
93% non-verbal

93% of non-verbal is made up of:

55% body language
38% tone of voice

So for deaf customers, you can already remove

7% verbal
38% tone of voice

Which leaves you reliant upon 55% body language.

Then, add a mask into the mix, and 55% of body language is massively impacted.

Smiling alone is proven to reduce stress and hormone levels and enhance endorphins. When wearing, a mask is compromised for deaf people.

In this new time of mask-wearing, people have adapted and worked on the tone of voice to somewhat enhance/increase the levels of empathy and customer care, especially to combat anxiety in this new way of accessing everyday services.

These amended cues are not accessible to deaf employees and customers.

So we have taken the time to give you a few things you can do right now to add empathy with mask-wearing:

A smile with the eyes, also called a “Duchenne Smile”

But how?

Find your genuine smile

The muscles needed for a true smile are involuntary and only become engaged when you are authentically smiling.

An example of this is when you find something funny or heartfelt – it is a naturally occurring smile that is also evident in your eyes.

Give it a go now; think of something that you truly found funny – a recent programme you watched or a funny story someone just told you.

Notice what happened to your smile and the feeling on your face.

Yes, your face will feel different.  Natural, relaxed and authentic.

Now, think about a truly special moment in your life.  Your wedding day, the birth of your children, special memories with family or friends.

And there it is again…your genuine, authentic smile.

This is the smile we are talking about that will show naturally in your eyes without even thinking.

Simple but effective, and it absolutely works.

Do share this with your teams, as this will ring true for your colleagues and customers and will have a real tangible impact.

Keep smiling 🙂