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Social Graces: Here's what to say to people not wearing their face mask correctly

By Hannah Herrera Greenspan, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Fashion Daily

Q: How should you tell people they are wearing their mask incorrectly?

A: If you encounter someone wearing a mask incorrectly, be gracious and give the person the benefit of the doubt. Avoid putting anyone on the defense by offering unsolicited advice. Instead take a helpful approach. Smile with your eyes, and say something as simple as, "Excuse me, I noticed your mask was slipping a bit around the ears. Thought you might want to know, so it doesn't fall to the floor."

While sharing this information, gesture with your own mask the correct way to cover both the nose and mouth. If this exchange is done with a kind and upbeat tone, you will come across as friendly and concerned, rather than fearful and threatening.

After four months of dealing with COVID-19, the last thing anyone needs is more friction. Take a breath, be tolerant and kind with every interaction, and you might even receive a sincere thank-you in return.

- Lisa Gache, etiquette expert and founder of Beverly Hills Manners

A: I think that navigating this moment of transition will involve a new understanding of the importance of boundaries with your friends and loved ones. It's going to be hard to tell people how to wear their masks, but you may have to. I would encourage you to practice. Stand in front of a mirror and practice saying, "Hey, friend, can you please pull your mask up over your nose?" Practice saying, "I love you, but I can't spend time with you unless you wear your mask over your nose and mouth." Practice saying, "Give me 6 feet please."


And give yourself the mental practice of walking away if you have to. Imagine yourself in a situation where a friend won't wear a mask properly and imagine yourself saying, "I've got to go," and then leaving. Give yourself some training on setting those boundaries.

But importantly, remember how strange a time this is. Allow for that strangeness to exist. Exercise patience with folks you see not wearing a mask or not wearing one properly. We're on a learning curve. Some folks are being thoughtless and selfish, absolutely. But some are struggling to learn and overcome traumas that may be associated with objects being close to their faces and/or throats; to understand that wearing a mask isn't just about their comfort or their safety, but about everyone else's.

Lead with compassion always, but set your boundaries firmly.

- Emma Couling, freelance writer, moderator and host of "Stay Mad Chicago"

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