How to have a non-confrontational conversation about mask use

Posted at 4:38 PM, Jul 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 16:38:49-04

GRAND RAPIDS — As more states start implementing mask mandates, doctors are offering some advice on how to encourage mask use, without causing conflict.

For some, the mandates can rub them the wrong way, so FOX 17 spoke to a psychologist at Spectrum Health to learn some way to find out why those people may be resistant and help them reconsider.

“None of us, I think like being told what to do,” said Lyndsay Volpe-Bertram, PsyD a Psychologist with Spectrum Health.

And when they are, that can make some people feel rebellious and not want to mask up.

Volpe-Bertram said though, there are easy ways to encourage family, friends, even strangers to think again.

First, don’t assume someone isn’t wearing a mask on purpose or to be hurtful, so approach them with curiosity.

“Even start with a question of ‘Hey, I noticed that you forgot to bring your mask in?” Volpe-Bertram said. “We really want to understand what the barriers are for that person about wearing a mask. Maybe there is fear associated with it because they think that it could cause them harm in some way.”

When you ask, it’s important to be mindful of your body language.

“Are you standing there in a very hunched over manner or gesticulating and waving our fingers in their face? We don’t want to do that because that feels threatening, ”Volpe-Bertram said.

Instead, she suggests trying to use a calm voice coupled with relaxed posture.

“It’s important to just kind of stand in a relaxed position and keep your arms down. Be mindful that your shoulders aren’t too hunched up.”

The next biggest thing to remember is using “I” statements.

Volpe-Bertram “Let’s say you were talking with a family member; It’s OK to say ‘I feel very uncomfortable when people don’t wear masks because A,B, and C.”

Volpe-Bertram said that helps you take ownership of how you feel instead of leaving the other person feeling attacked.

You can also try to educate about the benefits of wearing a mask.

“What have you read, what have you heard, what have you seen? and then offering resources,” Volpe-Bertram said.

If someone still isn’t on board, you can help them find creative solutions.

Volpe-Bertram “Just ask, ‘Hey is there another way that we can do this? Would you be willing to take a mask from an employee that has one readily available? Is there a way you can get the items that you need by shopping online or maybe using a grocery delivery service? Is there someone you could ask to go get that item for you?”

Most importantly, remember this is something everyone is trying to get used to.

“It’s just time and repetition and practice that makes some of these things that create anxiety and frustration go away,” Volpe-Bertram said.

If all else fails, it’s important to know when to walk away if your questions just aren’t being received.