Telephonophobia: A Fear of Phone Calls

Here’s a fact about me – I hate making phone calls. Despite the fact that my cell phone is rarely out of reach, I almost never use it for its original purpose. I call my family now and again, a friend once in a while, other miscellaneous calls as rarely as possible.

black and white office phone

Hi! My name’s Meredith and I’m telephonophobic. Telephonophobia is defined as a reluctance or fear of making or taking phone calls; literally “fear of telephone.” I was reading an article the other day about how common this is amongst millennials. In an age of texting and email, phone calls have become the exception instead of the norm. The funny thing is, I have always felt this way. Even as a child – before the age of text communication – I would rather starve than call to order a pizza. Sure I spent my fair share of teenage time on the phone with boyfriends and BFFs, but I always preferred speaking in person whenever possible.

After much thought and reflection, I’ve narrowed my anxiety down to three major points:

1) Lack of physical cues. I feel much more comfortable being able to read a person’s body language so that I can react appropriately. I also feel that with my sense of humor, it’s to my benefit for the other person to see my face.

2) I’m subconsciously self-conscious about my voice. I don’t ever really think about how I sound until someone mentions my accent or I hear myself on a recording. Then a part of me goes “oh yeah…” It’s silly I know, but there it is.

3) Sometimes I have issues “using my words.” I find text communication easier in part because it gives me time to work out the best phrasing. There’s nothing worse than being in the middle of a conversation and not being able to find the right word. Sadly, as I find it happening more lately (damn you fibrofog) this has only gotten worse. And I feel like there’s only so many times it can happen before people start questioning your position.

Slinky, desk collection

It’s slinky, It’s slinky…

Unfortunately, a lot of the work I do is done remotely – we work with other companies all over the western U.S. – which means that a there is a great deal of telephonic communication. The conference calls don’t bother me quite so much since I’m rarely in the spotlight, but the one-on-one calls have me cringing every time the phone rings. And oh those truly regrettable instances where a phone call is the only way to explain a complicated matter…sigh.

So, as a matter of survival, I’ve come up with a few tips to help me minimize the pain of phone calls:

1) Create a script. Even if it’s just an opening line and a list of questions to be answered, it keeps me focused and ensures I get all the answers I need before I rush to end the call. (Not that I do that…)

2) Small talk cheat sheet. It always seems to me that everyone – at least in a business setting – wants to make some sort of small talk. I try to equip myself with a little background on the person I’m calling, trivia about the subject we’re speaking on, and a few personal tidbits I don’t mind sharing. If I don’t have to use it that’s fine; better prepared than awkward silence!

3) Use body language. As frustrating as it is to be unable to read the other person’s body language, I find that using my own often helps convey my meaning in the intended way. I try to remember to smile when I’m speaking in hopes of conveying an upbeat and confident attitude. And, when I’m especially nervous, I try to remember my power positions and I find this really helps.

4) Use the slinky. I find that if I keep my hands busy while I’m talking, it gives the anxiety an alternative outlet while allowing my mind to focus on the conversation. I keep an odd assortment of things at hand but my favorite by far is the mini-slinky.

5) Reward yourself. I find that taking a few minutes to do something fun (including a little happy dance that it’s over) really helps work off any remaining nervous energy. It’s also good conditioning to see the phone as a positive rather than a negative and a good way to avoid dwelling on anything ridiculous I probably managed to say. (smile)

Do you enjoy talking on the phone?
Any other tips or tricks??

6 thoughts on “Telephonophobia: A Fear of Phone Calls

  1. Great post! Oh my gosh I definitely have that too! Even as a child I hated it and now even more – it’s like why are you calling me instead of texting me??? What’s wrong?? lol I recently read the book Quiet and for exactly the reason of lack of social cues, the author mentioned that introverts usually hate talking on the phone because it makes it that much harder to know how the other person is perceiving things, etc.

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    • It definitely seems to be more of an introvert thing, which explains a lot! I know the phone has its uses, but I have zero complaints about technology moving towards other methods – even with Skype, etc. you can usually see faces (although that’s one of those things that can be easy to accidentally forget…). I give major props to all the introvert inventors out there! It’s really nice to know that the no talking on the phone thing is truly “a thing.” 🙂

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  2. LOL!! It is funny how as technology has increased we have gotten more away from talking on the phone. I text mostly or face to face conversations are the best! I do talk on the phone but just not as much and rarely long conversations and if I don’t recognize the number then Nope, not picking up! 🙂

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    • I am so in agreement with not picking up the unknown numbers. Unless I’m expecting a call I’m definitely a “screener.” It also gives me a chance to prepare before calling them back! Good to know that it’s a trend and I’m not alone in this! 🙂

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  3. You sound just like my husband. He hates talking on the phone, even just to order a pizza. We figured out quickly that if he has a “script” like you mentioned it goes so much easier. I, on the other hand, love talking on the phone! 🙂

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