• Elisa Nuevo Vallín

How to politely ask someone to put their mask on

Have you ever been in a situation where, despite the Government rules on face-masks, there were people not wearing them? Many of us have experienced this situation.

How did you feel? For many of us, there are a mixture of emotions, right? It is frustrating to see people who aren't following the medical experts advice, which ultimately benefits us all.


Firstly, it is very important to remember that there are people who are exempt or may not be able to wear a face covering, such as people who cannot put on, wear or remove them because of a physical or mental disability or illness; alternatively people providing assistance to someone who relies on lip reading, or facial expressions to communicate is also exempt, as is that person using lip reading, facial expressions and body language to communicate... If somebody has a valid reason for not wearing a mask, please do remember to be kind and considerate to this fact.


However, if this is not the case, why are some people refusing using face-masks?

It seems that, despite all of the weight of medical evidence, some people still don't believe that masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19. They may also think their area is safe as infection rates are low locally. Some people do feel discomfort wearing a face covering - they find it hard to breathe, the material itchy on their skin etc…. For some, it is an issue with perceived Government control.


Whatever the reason it is, the easiest solution is getting 6 feet away from that person, but if you can't move away because you are queuing at the supermarket, for example, I suggest you try the following tactics:

  • If you are in a shop, look for a store employee, manager or owner and let them know about those who are not wearing face coverings.

  • If you are queuing, you can gently ask the person who is not wearing a face-mask

to please get enough physical distance from you (take special care of your body language and tone of voice so you do not come across as aggressive). If getting more distance between you is not possible, just leave. Forget your trolley - it's not worth putting you in an upsetting or potentially dangerous situation.






  • Please, be polite and discrete, and avoid a confrontational stance at all costs when you make your request as this will not end well and you certainly will not get the response you desire.

  • Be clear that this is not something personal, quote the experts and try:

  • “All of the information we have right now says that wearing a face mask is the best way to keep yourself and others safe. Would you be willing to put your mask on or pull it up over your nose?”

  • “Health officials have recommended that everyone in the community wear a face mask to protect each other and to help our hospitals. Would you be willing to put your mask on or pull it up over your nose?”

  • "Hey there. I just wanted to ask can you please follow the store policy of wearing a mask just so we can all be more comfortable?"

  • If the person is wearing the face covering under their chin, simply draw their attention discretely and tap your mask. This subtle gesture may be sufficient to diffuse the situation. Everyone is overwhelmed with Covid news, information, updates and sometimes misinformation too. It is perfectly natural to be confused and sometimes forget.

Asking friends or family to wear a face mask is no easier, and it can be a very sensitive subject. You will need to keep it friendly but firm. You can try:

  • "It would really make me feel better if you had a mask on."

  • "Since you don't have a mask on, let's continue this conversation at a further distance".

It might help to keep a few disposable masks to offer - I always carry a few with me.


Also, consider the scenario where the person just simply forgot their mask in the car, or left the house without one in error. It could happen to anyone! In this case show understanding and kindness and offer a spare mask from your disposable supply.

So, if you find yourself in this situation, instead of getting angry, walk away and take some deep breathes. Then, take a moment and ask yourself what is best for you and your family. Sometimes rather than risk confrontation, it’s recommended to maintain sufficient distance, make sure your own mask is on correctly and avoid that person.

I hope that the information above is of interest, and remember that wearing a mask will give you some protection, but mostly, it will protect the other people you care about.


Stay safe.







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