What are the feelings behind the mask?
This is a question I find myself asking more often than I ever thought possible. I am still staying mostly at home, but there are times I venture out. It’s at these times I find myself wondering what are the feelings behind the mask? What is the other thinking? How does this experience feel to them? And actually I find am among up stories about their answers. Are you making up stories too? Comment below to tell me what stories you’ve been telling!
Last weekend was my first grocery store outing in months. It wasn’t a great experience. I found people to be either uninterested or too mission-focused to keep their six feet distance. Admittedly this can be quite hard as we all crawl the vacant aisles searching for an appropriate substitute to the item we intended to buy. All my fellow shoppers, judging from their faces, seemed really mad. And yet, all I really saw was their eyes, not their faces.
One shopper initially seemed nice when he let me pass in front of him. Then I quickly changed my assessment when he failed to acknowledge the thank you and friendly comment I made.
“What a jerk!” I thought, “No response and he’s practically glaring at me!”
What’s the truth about this stranger that I passed not one but two snap judgments on? Who knows? I certainly don’t! Unfortunately, I didn’t recognize my storytelling until I was venting a bit to two good friends. They offered insights that quickly had me eating humble pie. One pointed out that maybe the guy had no idea what I said because my words were garbled by my mask. The other friend pointed out that based on some Emotional IQ training she’s been looking at, it’s extremely hard to know that the feelings are behind the mask. There are so many critical facial cues that are hidden!
Oh my gosh! So true! And as I explored this further, I came to a couple more realizations. First, if you can tell from a person’s masked face, then the inherently awkward and somewhat rigid grocery cart pushing stance also gives you few physical tells worth even a grain of salt. Second, it is very likely many of these people that I encountered are scared and uncomfortable. I know I am! We are navigating a very new way of sharing space. And there is little evidence so far that we are actually safe out and about. People forget themselves when they feel unsafe. I clearly did!
I even lost sight of what I already intuitively knew. Since this mask wearing protocol has been in place, I’ve gone out of my way to tell someone I pass “I’m smiling under this mask!” More often then not, I get a chuckle and a “me too!”
So, as the world opens up and you re-enter shared public spaces be thoughtful, curious, and humble. Consider these final questions and comment below:
What are the feelings are behind the mask?
What stories are you telling?
Do you need to replace judgment with kindness?
May it be so!