To Mask or Not to Mask? It’s Not Just a Question of Etiquette
Updated: Jun 15
As the pandemic grinds on, whether to wear a mask in public or in shared spaces continues to be a question for some people — but is it a question of etiquette?
Here in my native Canada, where sound policy has helped us avoid the skyrocketing cases we see in other locations, mask wearing still isn’t as accepted as it is in other countries. Yet the evidence is there: Wearing a mask can protect you and the people around you from needless suffering.
Etiquette doesn’t exist just to make the person practicing it look sophisticated; it’s a system of protocols designed to make other people comfortable. From that point of view, wearing a mask is the right thing to do (never mind the health benefits). With that in mind, let’s look at the etiquette behind mask wearing.
Follow the law
In some places like in the province of Quebec, wearing a mask isn’t a matter of personal choice — it’s the law. If you are in a location where face coverings are still an individual decision, adhere to the guidance from your local health minister or health authority. You may be required to wear a face covering only in places where social distancing isn’t possible, for instance, rather than every time you leave the house.
Respect the rules when you visit businesses
If the business you’re patronizing requires masks, put one on — if you don’t, you may be at risk of being kicked out. Employees often must serve as enforcers of these rules, which is an extra burden during an already stressful time, so please save them the added aggravation of chasing you through the store!
Set your own rules at home
You are the queen or king of your castle and can decide whether you’d like visitors to wear a mask. If you do require it, let them know ahead of time so they can prepare. The same rule applies for people who might be entering your home, so note that when you arrange for services like repairs or house cleaning. An option is to have masks available at your home for visitors.
Mind your words and your emotions
I’ve learned that it’s impossible to manage or control others. If you absolutely must talk to someone about mask wearing, first state what you are doing and why. Adopt a curious tone: “I’d like to talk to you about face coverings. I noticed you’re not wearing one. May I ask why?” Realize that you may not get the answer you’re hoping for — during this time of heightened emotions, the response may not exactly be favorable. It’s unfortunate that I must say this, but you should also understand that you could be physically at risk if you broach the subject with a stranger.
Limit Exposure when you can
Of course, mask wearing is just one way to prevent the spread of COVID-19. I don’t go to the grocery store anymore and instead opt for grocery delivery. I also take advantage of online retailers like Amazon to reduce the risk of exposure for myself and others. Better yet check out local suppliers that will deliver to you.
Are you wearing a face covering? How do you broach the subject with guests in your home or with friends and family who don’t like to wear masks? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments below.