Non verbal communication (HLD 323)

9 Feb 2021

Over the past week, it has become obvious to me that there are many things we use our mouths for, that don’t involve speech.

Yes – those of you who have been prolific mask wearers for months will already be aware of this, but here in Western Australia, it takes us a while to catch up with the rest of the world. By and large, we are quite happy with that situation.

Anyway – non verbal communication.

Yesterday, in a workplace environment, I had to whisper to a colleague that I needed to nick off for a wee. Usually this is done very very quietly, mainly relying on the lip reading ability of your coworker, so that customers aren’t offended by the thought that the lady selling them school uniforms actually has a bladder. A bladder that may or may not be full of coffee which is required to keep the smile on her face*.

Of course, with masks firmly in place, I had to announce my intentions fairly loudly. Fortunately the customer at the time was another woman who also possesses a bladder which also occasionally requires emptying of coffee and other assorted beverages, so she did not find the situation offensive. It did lead to a brief discussion (bladder matters were pressing heavily) about what our sign language signal is for “gotta wee – back soon”. We were none the wiser, and the one signal I did know that might have worked was actually for childbirth, which should have been obvious to all present was not my intention.

Apart from discrete elimination advice, the other biggie that I’m missing from my mask wearing time, is the casual smile* greeting.

Walking the dog, passing people in shops, or just acknowledging someone waiting in the queue for the toilet, a small smile is a perfect way to acknowledge another person without getting into major discussions.

I don’t always want to enter into a full blown verbal “Good morning!”, or even a succinct “Morning!”, let alone a “Gosh I’m busting I’ve already had three coffees today”. Some times, all I want to be able to do is a polite smile, maybe a nod of the head, and off we go.

Wearing a mask inhibits this process. Sure – I could wink – but this is a little bit flirty and highly inappropriate for the toilet queue. A small wave might work if I actually know the person – but then waving and rapidly moving away might be considered rude, even if you are a woman on an urgent mission. So basically mask wearing means I have to verbalise a greeting unless I am prepared to be considered stand-offish.

I decided to try the alternative shown in my photo. It doesn’t eliminate the elimination advice issue, but it does solve the smile issue.

Any sign language people out there happy to educate us on the appropriate sign for ‘gotta wee’???

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