The Importance of Conveying Smiles Behind Our Masks

Dear Reader:

CBS correspondent, Jim Axelrod, shared an important observation recently he experienced. It left him wondering ‘How do we let a person (persons) we are communicating with know we are truly smiling behind our face masks?’

(Yes…I have seen some masks made with smiles and even teeth…but they are downright creepy to me…like that hideous grin from “The Joker” )


Axelrod explained that he had run to the grocery store to pick up some bread and a few bottles of seltzer. As he watched the cashier ring up his purchases he felt a sense of overwhelming gratitude for this woman potentially putting her health on the line, daily, for consumers like him.

So he smiled his biggest smile in appreciation…but the woman just stared back at him blankly. He felt crestfallen and disappointed. It wasn’t until he started out of the store and saw the mask covering his face  in the swinging glass door that he realized the problem.

“I was leaving the store when it hit me: of course she hadn’t seen my smile! My mask had concealed my gratitude.

For the rest of the day, with every interaction I had with someone I didn’t know – the gas station attendant, the kid behind the take-out counter – I made sure to tell them how thankful I was, my words replacing the smiles they couldn’t see.”

I was nodding my head in agreement as I listened to him talk on this segment of the CBS news show. I have done the same thing…stretching my smile as big as it can go…somehow thinking they can see the smile in my eyes and understand I am grateful for their help in any endeavor.

I became more conscious of the importance of letting our eyes and even eyebrows help convey emotions over the mask at the Belks beauty counter. I usually get Mandy a Clinique cosmetic bag for her birthday each year since this is around the time they have their annual gift rewards. But I waited too long and they were sold out of the beauty bags when I arrived about a week ago.

However, Lancome was still having their rewards cosmetic bag sale. The sales girl told me that this year’s focus was on eyes and eyebrows, along with intensified moisturizer, to help prevent dry skin from mask coverage. In other words…COVID  accessories on the parts of the face still seen.

She also addressed the “smile” issue….with eyeliner demonstrated to widen the eyes into a smiling mode, along with intensified mascara and high shaped eyebrows…the part of the face still seen in public…uplifting each part to exude feelings of positivity…a new way of smiling.

Jim Axelrod continued his news segment around his quest to “smile” behind a mask…even when his words failed to convey the same feeling as a smile. The rest of his story…

…”But still, something was missing.

Smiles are the grease for our interpersonal communications, our most efficient way to signal warmth, safety, empathy, compassion, or – at the grocery store – gratitude … a non-verbal supplement to expand the limits of what words alone can express.

Studies have shown smiles are actually contagious. They lift the mood of both the source and the target of the smile. And now, COVID has robbed us of this critically-important tool we use to connect with each other.

We’ve been sad before as a country, living without smiles for a time in the aftermath of assassinations, terror attacks, school shootings. But this is different. Wearing masks is a structural change in the way we live.  COVID has literally wiped the smiles from our faces.

So, keep this in mind as you go about your business, for now our words are all we’ve got.  Not just the ones we choose, but how we deliver them. From behind a mask, tone and inflection are the new smiles. Forget the face-to-face world. In a mask-to-mask world, the golden rule is that people can’t feel what they can’t see.

Let’s all be part of the solution, and find other ways to smile at each other. “


So until tomorrow….

Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

Pooh’s advice works well with the exception of the hug…still invisible hugs social distanced are better than none at all.



For the last day before school starts back today, in all its different forms and combinations, the Dingle/Turners went out on the boat…even capturing a small shark… much to the boys’ excitement.

My sweet granddaughters: Making Memories

This morning….cute and creative way to start back! Lachlan and Rutledge….Boo Boo is wishing you a safe happy first day back!

*I think they are doing a great job of ‘conveying smiles’ with and without the masks!

Eva Cate looks all perky heading out this morning…Jake…not as much…I think this school “thing” is still up in the air for him…he will wait to reserve judgement. 🙂 * Good luck teachers! 🙂 Stay safe everyone!


About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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