How the Covid pandemic has changed our body language

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues year after year, it has led to changes in our daily behaviors: indoor masking, social distancing, less physical contact and a tendency to avoid dense social gatherings. These changes affect our non-verbal behavior. How has our everyday body language changed because of the pandemic? And will some of these changes be permanent?

Masking. Although indoor mask-wearing is on the decline as people suffer from pandemic fatigue, there will likely still be people who maintain the practice and some crowded places (e.g. airplanes, trains) where masks will be worn by a good number of cautious individuals. By masking their face, it becomes much more difficult to read the important facial expressions that give us information about what the other is feeling and how they are reacting. Think of the friendly smile. It is almost impossible to read behind a surgical mask.

The personal space bubble. We all maintain a sort of “bubble” of personal space between ourselves and others. Our bubble is smaller when we are close to those with whom we are close and larger for strangers. Over time, we each develop a “comfortable” amount of personal space. Urging people during the pandemic to stay two meters away from others seems to have led to a subtle increase in our physical distance. The unanswered question is whether or not this will be a permanent change, which for most of us will mean bigger “bubbles”.

The aerial kiss. In many parts of the United States, but more commonly in Europe, there is a greeting of kissing a friend or relative on the cheek – in Europe this may involve two or three kisses. Since the pandemic, there has been both a reduction in the use of the cheek kiss as a greeting (replaced by a variety of more distant greetings) and more “air kissing” – avoiding lip contact against lips. cheeks, often with a little space between the two faces.

Half hugs. When I started researching greetings 45 years ago, men rarely kissed in greeting. Over the decades, man-to-man hugs have become a much more common greeting, even leading to massive “bear hugs” among “brothers”. Of course, women and mixed couples have always hugged each other often as a way of greeting. I’ve noticed that during the pandemic, man-to-man hugs have tended to turn into a “half-hug” – putting one arm halfway around the other’s shoulder. Also, due to the pandemic, the incidence of hugs during greetings is generally decreasing, and the duration of any touch, full hug or half hug, tends to be less.

The punch. In business circles, the handshake has been the accepted and “official” greeting. (You can read a lot from body language experts on the best ways to shake hands and what the different types of handshakes mean). Since the pandemic, in many business settings, a fist, which offers less skin-to-skin contact, has replaced the handshake. (Even the US President recently punched another head of state). In terms of formality, the handshake is more formal and the fist bumps were used as a less casual greeting between friends and acquaintances in social settings. Perhaps handshakes will begin to fade from our repertoire of typical greeting behavior, replaced by less formal fist bumps or other greetings, in the same way that dress code has become more casual over time. years. Only time will tell.

What body language alterations have you noticed during the pandemic period?

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