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anti-maskers

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In July of 2020, National Geographic published a poll showing that more Americans than ever thought we should all be wearing masks. Women between the ages of 18 to 34 and 65 and up were the mostly likely to say they always wore a mask out of their homes. In general, the sensibility at the time was to mask up. Now, about one year later, Morning Consult conducted a poll that found that, when it comes to masks, Americans are kind of over it. It showed that 23 percent of Republicans and 22 percent of unvaccinated people say they will never wear a mask in a public space. Yikes. It seems many of the unvaxxed are the unmasked.

Who would have ever thought that a little piece of cloth could become so politicized? A mask represents so much more than a piece of fabric. It represents a willingness to work together to stop a pandemic that has devastated our country emotionally, physically and financially. It represents an acknowledgement of science. So when you encounter an anti-masker (literally, because their face is exposed), it can be hard to know how to respond. Here are some tips on what to do (and not do) when dealing with anti-maskers.

 

Avoid patronizing

Many Americans ignore the facts because they just don’t have the proper information. Being misinformed about certain issues is usually not a choice, so try to avoid a patronizing conversation.

Don’t resort to anger

Trying to get someone to listen to you while you’re yelling is usually a dead end approach, too. When someone yells at you, the underlying assumption is there’s no fixing this issue  – there’s no way to appease them.

Listen

Nobody likes to feel that people are giving them instructions or feedback without hearing them out. I know: it’s very hard to want to listen to what an anti-masker has to say. This is not so much about absorbing their ideas as it is opening up their minds to your ideas. It’s about opening a dialogue. A dialogue involves two people talking, and that’s usually what people respond to better than a monologue. By simply listening to what someone has to say, you show them that, by the time you speak, you have taken their thoughts into consideration. It’s also shown common decency and compassion, and someone is more likely to hear you out if you’ve shown those traits.

Empathize

Research out of the National Library of Medicine shows that people are more willing to open their minds to another perspective if they feel the other person understands where they’re coming from. And you probably can understand some of where anti-maskers are coming from. Masks are hot. They are itchy. They start to smell. They can get expensive to restock. They are annoying to remember to pack. The rules around them keep changing. If you can show an anti-masker that you, too, have thought about those things, then they might be willing to hear what you have to say. Show common ground before discussing difference of opinion.

No need to lose friends over it

Many people are denouncing long-time friends who are now anti-maskers. People are emancipating themselves from anti-mask family members. It’s very sad. We can’t become a country that always goes with the nuclear option. If we continue to cut ties with anyone who doesn’t agree with us, we will not be the united states of America. Maybe this is not a good time to be around anti-mask friends and family, but understand that it’s this pandemic that is driving people apart. There is a greater evil at work. One day, you’ll be sad you denounced a close friend over an issue that is a thing of the past. And masks will be a thing of the past, one day.

You’ve probably accommodated their beliefs

If someone is coming to your home and doesn’t want to wear a mask, you can remind them of times you have accommodated their house rules. Maybe you’ve taken off your shoes even though you hate to be barefoot. Maybe you ate a vegan meal, even though you’re a meat eater. Maybe you even went out of your way to learn how to make a vegan dessert to bring over. Perhaps you agreed not to swear around their kids, even though you tend to swear a lot. Friends do what they can to make other friends comfortable. Wearing a mask doesn’t have to mean they’ve changed their stance: it means they care about making you, a friend, comfortable.

Keep your mask on

No matter what, you never have to let an anti-masker pressure you to remove your mask. Maybe you can’t prove to them that there are benefits of them wearing a mask but there are certainly no benefits of you taking yours off, and there are possibly risks depending on the environment. If you enter a space or are with a group of primarily anti-maskers, you might feel pressure to remove your mask. But all you do is gain temporary favor from people who don’t respect your boundaries, at the risk of getting sick. And who cares if people who don’t respect you like you?

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