Facemask wearing Brits told to ‘smile like a cat’ to communicate

  • 50% felt that we will need to find new ways to communicate when wearing face mask
  • Body language expert, Judi James, says we’ll need to find new ways of communicating, such as “smiling like a cat”, using hand gestures and tilting your head 
  • Judi and Vistaprint have also identified the five different face mask wearers from ‘emotionally concerned’ to ‘flexible communicators’ 
  • Over a third of Brits feel self-conscious when wearing a mask – with 25% feeling silly or embarrassed 

22nd July 2020: Research released today reveals how Brits really feel about the new norm of wearing face masks. 

The poll was commissioned by Vistaprint, the marketing and design partner for small businesses and consumers, and reveals that 85% of the British public own a mask, but staggeringly, only 18% of people always wear it in public. 

Over a third of Brits feel self-conscious wearing a mask, with 20% stating that they wouldn’t wear a face mask in public with friends, in case they missed a selfie opportunity. 

Overall, 25% of the nation polled confessed to feeling silly or embarrassed about wearing a face mask in public. But importantly, 50% of the public felt that we will need to find new ways to communicate. 

Leading body language expert, Judi James has shared what she believes are the five different types of mask wearers, along with her top tips for communicating when wearing one.  

  1.  Logical Approvers: “75% of Brits approve of wearing a mask, which should create a ripple response amongst the rest of the public, encouraging those who don’t wear masks and reassuring others that do.” 
  2. The Emotionally Concerned: “We need to take social issues seriously and help the 25% of people worried about communication and the 35% who said they would feel self-conscious wearing one, as what can sound like illogical prompters to avoid wearing one can be as compelling as the practical ones.” 
  3. Flexible Communicators: “Like all animals we have developed a complex ritual of non-verbal signals to help us bond in social groups and to survive our times spent with large groups of strangers, e.g. when we are commuting.  Words do convey messages but with 28% acknowledging a mask will make them have to speak more clearly too, it’s important to remember that in normal face-to-face communication it’s the non-verbal signals that will often have a much greater impact.”
  4. Non-Flexible Communicators: “Despite this, a stunning 45% said they haven’t changed how they communicate, and this is why it’s so vital we look at the challenge of redesigning our body language to make life in a mask feel more normal and comfortable.”
  5. The Self-identity Conscious: “It’s also important for people to wear a mask that they feel is ‘them’. Facial masks don’t have to be boring and the more we pick one to suit our ID or even see it as a bit of a fashion statement the more we will integrate it into our lives, feeling comfortable as we do so.” 

Judi James also provided top tips for communicating when wearing a mask: 

  1. Smile Like A Cat: “Cats use a ritual of eye narrowing and slow blinking to ‘smile’ at one another and humans are more than capable of focusing on similar techniques with a bit of practice!” 
  2. Head Tilt: “We often do this when we are listening or greeting someone, and it is a part of our normal transactions that can still make us look interested and even upbeat when we’re in a mask.”
  3. Eye Contact and Eyebrows: “Brits will have to focus on becoming more comfortable with eye contact. Looking down in a cut-off can signal you have no desire to communicate, and eye contact and nodding will register positive and active responses. Raising eyebrows makes us look engaged or excited to see someone and the small eye-brow shrug, where we raise and drop them quickly, will show engagement and even say ‘hello’.”
  4. Hand Gestures: “We need to use alternatives to handshakes and smiles, such as mimed rituals like the empty embrace to register excitement at meeting a friend, or the more exaggerated but low waving of the hands to signal rapport. When we speak, we do need to be clearer than normal as even people with perfect hearing will lip-read as part of the listening process. The more we learn to use illustrative and emphatic gestures the more comfortable our ‘chats’ will be.”

Emily Shirley,  General Manager, Vistaprint UK & Ireland said:  “As small businesses and the public adapt to the ‘new normal’, Vistaprint wanted to help them feel confident that they’re doing all they can for themselves and their communities.”

“With face masks a key part of this new normal, we hope the British public embrace the change and use Judi’s tips to help them communicate with each other. Choosing a face mask you are comfortable with, is clearly vital, which is why we offer a huge range of both customisable and design-led face masks to suit all tastes.” 

Vistaprint offers an extensive collection of filtered face masks, designed to suit adults and children alike with a variety of designs. The face masks have a 3-dimensional chin structure and come with an adjustable strap, designed to fit every face. For every reusable face covering you buy, Vistaprint gives a portion to support communities impacted by the coronavirus.

— ENDS — 

Notes to Editors: 

The research was commissioned in July 2020 by Vistaprint and conducted by a third-party research partner OnePoll with a random sample of 2,000 UK respondents aged 16+.

Vistaprint masks available at: https://www.vistaprint.co.uk/masks/