Communication Barrier - Wearing a Mask

This communication barrier springs up when someone tries to uphold an image they have of themselves to other people.

Sometimes we wear more than one mask, trying to fit into whatever situation we find ourselves in.

We create these masks in early childhood and continue to wear them because we find them useful. We even get to a point that we believe the mask is who we truly are. If we are wearing a mask of being nice, we go through life trying to please and be liked.

We tend to wear our masks all the time, even when they don't serve our purposes - and even when they make our lives difficult.

These masks prevent us from expressing who we really are, and from truly connecting with other people.

How masks act as a communication barrier

Masks get in the way of effective communication on two fronts: Focusing on and maintaining an image you're trying to uphold is a common cause of distraction. You're so busy trying to live up to your image that you often fail to pay attention during one-to-one conversation.

The mask you wear becomes a prison limiting the range of your actions and words. Since you have an image to uphold, you may not allow yourself to stray from it. You won't express yourself fully.

I used to think of myself as a well-read and knowledgeable person - I liked appearing that way, and because of that, I used to get distracted in conversations trying to figure out a way to continue appearing knowledgeable and avoid appearing ignorant.

When I stopped pretending that I was a know-it-all, I began to engage in conversations and really listen to what others had to say. I also started saying what I couldn't say before for fear of looking dumb.

Look Ma... No Masks

communication barrier wearing a maskTo get rid of your mask(s), try this exercise.

Get a blank piece of paper, and write at the top: "What I pretend to be is someone who ..." Now write five or more answers rapidly.

An alternative sentence you can use to stimulate your thinking is: "What I don't allow others to know about myself is..."

A third sentence to play with: "I like it when others think I'm .... " or its mirror sentence: "I don't like it when others think I'm..."

You may do both exercises to see the masks you have created for yourself. It's only when you become aware of your masks, that you can start to take them off.

There's a lot of work that goes into building an image. Conversely, there's a lot of freedom in just being yourself. Try it.