aka “How to Ask Someone to Put on Their Mask”
As we return to our beloved Tulane campus, there will likely be moments when we encounter someone who is not following all the COVID-19 safety strategies. This moment could cause anxiety as we fear for our own health, it might be frustrating as we become impatient with others not following the rules, it could also be confusing – what do we do about it?! This resource is designed to help us in that moment of “what to do?”
COVID-19 safety strategies are a new way of being on campus for all of us. These ideas are guided by an assumption of grace, that most often we are each doing the best we can and in the moment the person in front of us may simply have dashed out and forgotten or just a half-step slow to put on a mask. While our Tulane community comes together from cities and nations across the globe where these strategies may be more or less prevalent, together we can shape and reinforce our practice of them. This guide is grounded in the reality that shame and humiliation are not effective strategies for changing someone’s behavior. It is our ability to connect with each other, not shut each other down, that will lead us to adopt new, shared community behaviors of safety and care.
While there may be some who choose to intentionally and flagrantly not follow the rules, there are university structures and policies in place to respond to their behavior - this guide is not intended for confronting these individuals or choices.
What to Do?
- In the moment, check-in with yourself - are you worried for your own safety? Are you calm enough to speak with the person, or should you just leave the situation? Reflect on how you can best take care of yourself in the moment.
- We don’t have to talk with everyone we might see in a day lapsing in their COVID-19 safety practices. Consciously choose if you want to approach with feedback.
- Once you decide to approach, don’t over think it. Have a go to phrase or phrases (see ideas below) that are comfortable for you and have them ready to use when you need them.
- No need to get overly technical – don’t worry about explaining research or data. Just express your request.
- As you share your request, imagine you are letting someone know they just dropped their Splash Card, this can help you find a tone of helpfulness v. judgment.
- Share your feedback/request and then let it go. You can choose how you respond; you cannot choose or control their response.
- If they change behavior positively and responsively, say thanks and go about your day.
- If they ask for resources or more information, share what you can and then go about your day.
- If they don’t respond positively, simply leave the situation and move to a place where you feel safer. In this moment, is your safety that is important not trying to convince, convict, or convert them.
Prepare yourself for these moments:
- Have a go-to phrase (see ideas below) and practice saying it until you get comfortable with it. Role play with friends and family to find a tone of helpfulness and inquiry instead of shame and judgement.
- In case someone doesn’t have a mask or know where to get one, find out where mask pick up locations are on campus and know where to send someone who needs one.
- Model COVID-19 safe behaviors – and thank others for doing so as well. If we all model, we will create the cultural norm of behaviors and much of this will be unnecessary.
- Post pictures of yourself and others in their masks. Change your social media profile to a picture of you in a mask.
For in-person meetings/classrooms/buildings:
- Where appropriate/possible post signs, chalk sidewalks, on the entrance/exits to buildings, “did you remember your masks?”
- In classrooms and gatherings, have a ppt slide or sign in the front of the room as folks gather, reminding folks to put on their masks and stay 6ft distanced.
- Be clear and constantly remind everyone there is both grace and expectation to stay home if you do not feel well.
- Include “Mask Up” messaging as an opening slide for meeting or class presentations
- “As we get started, I want to review our new guidelines, please keep your mask on and keep your distance of 6ft.”
- Start meetings/events by showing the latest Tulane COVID-19 student produced PSA.
If you choose not to approach, ideas include:
- If you notice someone not wearing a mask, simply find a pathway that allows you to pass them in a distance of 6ft.
- If you are in conversation with someone who is not keeping their distance, you can mirror their forward steps by continuing to step back and keep the 6ft distance between you.
If you choose to approach, ideas to create your own phrase include:
Use yourself, if you do not want to confront others directly, use yourself – so if someone is closer than 6ft say, “Oh I am so sorry I am too close to you, let me back up"
To connect with others with empathy, you could start with:
- “I don’t like wearing them either and yet….”
- “Masks are so uncomfortable, aren’t they? And, can you please…”
- “I know the rules have changed and yet here…”
- “Hi, can you put your mask on please? Thanks so much”
- “Hi, for me, masks protect both of us, could you put yours on please? Thanks!”
- "Hey there, for both our safety, would you mind standing a little further away?”
- "Roll Wave, Mask Up”
If they are wearing their mask as a necklace or chin guard:
- “Thanks so much for remembering your mask! Would you mind pulling it up?”
- “You have a beautiful nose; I’d love to see it behind the mask.”
- “I know it is hard to talk, but I promise I will listen better with your mask on.”
You can also frame it as a university policy:
- "Hello, you may not be aware, but there is a mask policy on campus, I don’t like it either, but they are trying to keep us safe. And I really want to finish this semester.”
- “Hi, good news is that since they are mandating masks, they have some for you at the Health Center. Do you need directions there?”
To stay in the conversation and still be safe, you can add:
- “Can we step outside to continue talking and then we can figure out how I can help you.”
- “Why don’t we find a place with more space for us to talk and have 6ft?”
- “Hi, I’d feel more comfortable in this conversation if you would step back/wear your mask”
If you are giving feedback across roles of hierarchy or authority it may feel more intimidating – have additional phrases ready such as:
- “Oh, did they give vaccines to administrators/faculty/(insert someone with authority here) – that is so cool you don’t have to wear your mask – isn’t it great to know you won’t get sick from me?”
- “My mom would kill me if I didn’t ask you if you had a mask.”
If someone responds with “I didn’t know the policy existed, or I don’t have a mask”:
- “I know, there are so many changes these days, good news is that they have masks for you at the LBC and Health Center. Do you need directions?”
If someone responds with “I don’t care”:
- “I appreciate that is your personal view, but this is non-negotiable for our Tulane community. I don’t need to argue with you about it - but I will ask that you leave this space/class/meeting for the safety of others.”
- “Well, it protects me from you, so I would appreciate it if you would wear one.”
- “Your breath would smell better behind a mask”
- “Say man, you got a mask, it’d be a lot cooler if you did”
- “Didn’t you know? We’re all rehearsing for Halloween… get on this ASAP.”
- Start singing or have it ready on your phone to push play:
Police’s “Don’t Stand So Close to Me”
Gloria Estefan’s “Put on Your Mask”
Charlie XCX’s “Stay Away”
MC Hammer “U Can’t Touch This”
Resources on Giving Feedback
Ideas and advice on having difficult conversations, not necessarily focused on COVID-19 but transferable guidance: