1. “Put a mask on”
The absence of a mask on someone’s face should bother you, and being honest about it is always a good place to start when addressing this issue. I guess it also couldn’t hurt to throw in a “please” somewhere in there, but sometimes being blunt and straightforward is the only way to make any change in a person’s behavior. Whether you’re nervous to speak up or just want to keep it plain and simple, this is the line for you.
2. “Did you forget to put on underwear, too?”
Nothing like a smart remark to get the message across. Underwear is essential and so is a mask — especially in public settings. The good part about this snappy one-liner is that it could be interpreted as a sort-of joke. But as the recipient of this one-liner is laughing at the start of what could be the beginning of your comedic career, take the opportunity to steer the conversation back to the primary topic of concern — “Seriously, I hope you remembered your underwear, but could you put a mask on?”
3. “Your lack of empathy is showing”
While addressing the physical issue of not wearing a mask, this line also forces the culprit to look inward and determine why it is that they failed to wear a mask in public or around others. Catch them in the act of failing to consider how their actions impact the lives of others — all it takes is one person to cause a chain reaction of irreversible spread. Everyone needs to search within themselves to find some compassion and consideration for their neighbors — both literal and metaphorical.
4. “Would you like my extra mask?”
This one requires a little more work on your part — meaning you need to have an extra mask on hand that you are willing to give away. In an ideal world, your question will prompt the offender to recognize their errors — in other words, ideally this question won’t actually end with you having to give away one of your own masks. Regardless, there are worse things that could happen than providing a reckless person with a face covering.
5. “Do you even care about my health?”
Asking this question goes back to the topic of the underlying causes of going out in public without a mask. If you use this question on a friend, family member, roommate or acquaintance, be prepared to have a discussion about how their actions have the potential to impact those around them. Be honest and genuine in expressing how you feel disrespected by their neglect and carelessness — if there is a possibility that their actions could negatively impact your health, then you have all the right to comment on their failure to comply with mask ordinances and laws.
6. “You’d look better with a mask on”
Hopefully everyone is familiar with the New Boyz’s 2011 smash hit “Better With the Lights Off.” If that’s the case, find someone that is without a mask and sing this line to them to the tune of the chorus. You’ll grab a little attention for your flash mob performance while also saving others from potential COVID-19 spread. If you’re feeling particularly crazy, go ahead and write an entire remix — I’m sure the New Boyz would support you and your creative efforts.
7. “I’m planning to wear my mask”
If you and your friends are planning a safe outing but it seems like some people are neglecting the need to wear masks, simply point out your intentions to follow pandemic guidelines. Acting as a role model is sometimes more effective than simply calling out other people for their shortcomings and rule-breaking. If you’re looking for a softer approach to guiding people to mask-wearing, this option may be the best one for you.
8. “I don’t have any mints, but maybe a mask would help with the bad breath”
Not-so-subtly call out your friends for several issues at once — stinky breath, not wearing a mask and standing close enough for you to smell their breath. Why not kill two — or three — birds with one stone? Even if their breath smells minty fresh, I’ve decided on your behalf that it is OK to make your friends feel a little self-conscious, especially if it ends with everyone wearing a mask and feeling safer around one another.
9. “Hey, check out all the signs and rules posted”
Unlike some of the previous lines, this option takes some of the pressure off of you. Rather than the direct responsibility for you to call out whoever is without a mask, pointing out how businesses, restaurants and other public places have established new rules is an easy way to prompt someone to put on a mask. This helps the conflict shift from person versus person to person versus CDC guidelines, and I must say that the latter is much harder to argue with.
10. Non-verbal communication
With this option there is a wide variety of options to choose from. There are dirty looks, a side-step away from the maskless person or a hand gesture to draw their attention to their bare face. This option may be better for pointing out masklessness to people you are not acquainted with if you are feeling particularly shy or if the one-liners above are a little too straight-forward for your liking.
Regardless of which option you choose, know that you shouldn’t be ashamed of speaking up to protect yourself and others during this time. Take responsibility for yourself and hold others accountable — it’s the least you could do.