I’ll admit: I have a case of telephone phobia. Calling people on the phone triggers an anxious response in me. I get anxious when having to speak on the phone, as it’s always more difficult to get a point across without body language. Sarcasm isn’t nearly as easy, and it triggers concerns that I may come off rude, or like a jerk, or that I may not understand precisely what people asked. Worse, I have an incomplete memory of the phone call which causes its own trouble. So I put off calling or talking to people on the phone as much as I can. I guess the anxiety leads into phobia about having to call folks, mild though it may be.
I used to think it was because of the way I was raised. My dad also hated talking with people on the phone (though he was a loan officer, so he had to do it A LOT), but he also had anxiety issues. So who knows. Heck, even when I had to ask dates out to dances, I would prefer to do it in person…even if that meant that waiting an extra day may have missed the window (curse those other phone-confident people!). There are ways to handle phone anxiety though, that may help make life a bit more livable in our increasingly long-distance world. The advice as follows is for making the call, but you’ll see that quite a lot of this overlaps if you are expecting an important phone call…follow it, get that job! Or that date! Or that trivia answer on NPR right!
Best Ways to calm your Phone Phobia
When dealing with your phone anxiety, the thing that may help you is preparation. Similar to an in-person job interview, giving a speech in front of a crowd, or discussing financial matters, the best thing you can do is prep work. These are some things you can do in this stage prior to having to call someone. Practice practice practice.
Create an outline – come up with a list of things that you’ll need to cover in the phone call. While this may smack of paper writing, it will help you focus on something else outside of the phone phobia when you’re planning to call. If your mind can focus on a list of things to discuss (and take notes about!), then it won’t have as much time to sidetrack into fearful wanderings and creating that visceral bodily response. Also, you’ll be able to keep the phone call on track. What happens often with folks with telephone phobia is that some fear of forgetting everything they need to talk about may come in. An outline will help you remember what needs to be discussed, and help you overcome any anxiety during the call.
Practice in front of a mirror, or with someone else – This is when you sit down with someone else to walk through the phone call and overcome your phone phobia. Just have a conversation with them. Yes, this smacks of role-playing…but there’s a reason why so many corporate lackeys use role-playing in training. It works…and it may help you overcome your fear of talking on the telephone!
Dress to Impress – This is something that a lot of folks don’t even consider: dress professionally, even if you’re calling from home. Sure, you may be more comfortable in your jammies. Heck, I’m WAY more comfortable in my pajama pants, especially when considering my phobia. However, there’s a certain psychological boost that we get if we put the time and effort into our clothes. I know teachers who wear a button up shirt and tie when they get in front of a classroom, it helps them believe they belong there. I don’t mean you need to put on makeup, or that you need to splash on some aftershave if you’re a dude, but phone anxiety may be helped if you’re wearing attire that matches the person you’re calling. It may be subconscious, it may be an ingrained process of our society’s non-stop pressure to look good, but whatever it may be…your phone anxiety may be helped. And if it helps just a smidgen, then it’s worth it! And heck, man or woman, a tie is a great way to feel more business-like…and you can get a wide selection of ties from Amazon.
On the call with phone anxiety
Focus – With phone anxiety, what may happen (or happens to me) is that the brain starts worrying (often with no reason) about how the call may go or end up. This gets in the way of trying to make the call first, and then makes it deucedly difficult to actually have an organized phone call…anxiousness is no fun. This is where having that outline from the previous step helps. You can focus on that to reassure yourself that you do have a plan for the call, and also a spot for jotting down notes. More importantly, it gives you something to focus on other than the feelings of anxiety. Rely on the preparation steps to ensure a smooth call.
Speaker Phone/Headset – What may help here is to put the phone on speaker, and then be looking at something calming. That way you can get comfortable for sitting and taking/making the call. A relaxed and ready posture is helpful for the body, and that will translate into helping calm just a little your brain. Now, whatever will make you calm is up to you: be it a pet, be it a nice view out the window, be it the victory screen for Witcher 3. Whatever gives you some peace of mind or satisfaction can make the call easier. Putting it on a speakerphone or a headset may also help because it changes the behavior that you’re used to when making calls. Holding a phone against the side of your ear is ingrained behavior for many of us (starting in toddler hood, especially for the current crop of childrens). Setting up a different way to hold the call may trick your brain and relieve some of your phone anxiety. Just remember, if you take it standing (advised, due to the problems with sitting too much, and probably different from how you handle phone calls), don’t lock your knees. That causes some issues with blood flow…and you don’t want to add that to your anxiousness. I’d really recommend the Logitech Wireless headset sold at Amazon, it’s the one I’ve used for about 4 years now.
Other options to help relieve telephone phobia
Repetition – This is something that will help overcome phone anxiety. The more you do something, the more comfortable you’ll get. The more comfortable you are, the less your brain may hit you with the bodily reactions of anxiousness. You are basically building an immunity to your phone problems. It may help to run through these steps (outline, headset, etc.) with people you know and trust on actual phone calls. Think of it as a vaccine: build up your brain’s comfort, build up your immunity to phone anxiety.
Professional Help – I’ll be honest: the advice above should help lessen the anxiety. It may not get rid of it altogether, but I’m hoping it helps calm you a bit as you get used to breaking the mold of your phone practice. However, if you have a severe case of phone anxiety, then you may want to speak with a professional. There may be underlying reasons why you can’t stand talking on the phone, mentally and physically. Professional folks will be able to help you find those issues if you have them, and work through them. There are also a variety of anxiety support groups out there, and most of them are online…so no need to call anyone!