Masking vs Habitual Change in Good Communication

Masking vs Habitual Change in Good Communication

Masking vs Habitual Change in Good Communication

Let’s sort this out.

The other day I was in a workshop and, while working on a communication skill, a participant interjected, “But isn’t it important that we do not pander to masking?”.

Now I have heard it all.

In my career I have heard how people can’t change because they feel ‘un-natural’ or that the listener will feel ‘uncomfortable’ or that they can’t do it because they are an ‘introvert’ and my favourite (which I hear more than you would ever guess) is that they are unable because they are ‘left-handed’ (for a task for which left-handedness has no relevance).

So, “Yes”, I tell her. “That is true, but ‘masking’ has absolutely nothing to do with what we are doing here”. In fact, it is just another excuse to block healthy change.

So, let’s start with what ‘masking’ means. Masking, as the term implies, is about hiding or blocking. In psychology it is a defence mechanism to hide or disguise true thought, feelings or intentions.

Moving on to discuss habitual patterns of communication, it has nothing to do with hiding or blocking anything. For instance, let’s imagine you are passing a business card. I know people rarely do such a thing nowadays, but let’s imagine. You take it in one hand, not aware of whether it is upside down or otherwise and just pass it over with an outstretched arm.

Now, anyone who has done the most basic cultural training knows that in Japan, there is an etiquette for this simple act. The Japan Living guide tells us:

Masking vs Habitual Change in Good CommunicationOffer your business card with your right hand, and hold it by the top corner, so as not to cover any names or logos. Your cardholder should be held in your left hand.

So, by adopting this etiquette, one has to change one’s habit to be more effective in that environment. It is not masking anything. And it is the same with eye contact, gesturing, frameworks of communication and the way you walk. New patterns are not masks and sometimes they are heap more healthy as an alternative to what you were doing before.

In the Harvard Business Review article ‘Leaders, Drop your Masks’, Peter Fuda says ‘the mask’ was a metaphor that sparked the greatest interest amongst leaders and he found this mostly relevant for women. Let’s just make it clear that suggesting leaders drop their mask is all very interesting as leaders mask inadequacy, but very different to the skills of communication.

Please don’t confuse masking and being effective in your communication. One is a personality issue, one is about being effective in your communication.

And here’s a hint: If you are in our upcoming Gravitas Masterclass or Retreat with me, don’t push it. I’m losing my sense of humour over this one.


MELBOURNE 7th June 2024

Have the presence for presentations, media, meetings and difficult situations. Feel and be more confident, open and authentic, knowing the hidden secrets to your body and voice.

Limited spots, book your table today!


28th – 30th AUGUST 2024

This retreat provides an outstanding executive development opportunity tailored for an intimate group who wishes to experience transformational growth. Numbers are strictly limited to allow for individual attention.

Book your spot today!

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About Me

Dr Louise Mahler is a body language expert. With a focus on study of the mind-body relationship and business applications; providing practical inspiring improvement to global leaders.

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