Don’t like talking on the phone? 5 great tips to get over the fear

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Did you know that many people don’t like talking on the phone? Some even fear it! It can point to introversion or social anxiety, but notably, there are those who are perfectly fine conversing with others face to face but dread talking on the phone. Recently, studies have also shown that smartphone use for making calls among millennials is going down. This generation sees phone calls as “time-consuming and intrusive” and prefer using text and email.

Other reasons why people might hate phone calls:

  • Bad experience on the phone. Have you ever been shouted at over the phone or have received a rude caller? This can traumatize you for life. Others may associate phone calls with sad or bad experiences (for example news of death or being scammed).
  • It can be disruptive. A phone call demands your attention even when you’re working on something else. There’s also an urgency to it. People who call expect to get answers right away.
  • Language problems. For some newcomers, the fear of not having perfect English or being misunderstood due to their accent is heightened during a phone call.
  • No body language. It is a limited form of communication because we cannot access facial expressions and body language which are additional context cues. Relying on your voice alone can cause a lot of pressure.

Beyond these reasons, we have to recognize that talking on the phone is something we cannot avoid. It is a necessity if you’re a professional. You must get over your fear or dislike of it if you want to conduct business properly. Follow these five strategies to make the experience more bearable:

5 tips to deal with “phone phobia”:

  1. Use an alternative

    Use text, email or direct message whenever possible. For scheduled calls, suggest an alternative like Skype, FaceTime or any other VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) app. This could work especially for people who prefer talking face to face and seeing facial expressions and body language.

  2. Prepare

    Alternatives can work from time to time but not always. Get yourself physically and emotionally ready to receive or make calls. Visualize doing it and imagine the conversation going well. Take deep breaths and stay calm. Have a notepad and pen ready to note down important points. Remember to smile as you answer. Experts say this helps you relax and makes your voice sound cheerful over the phone.

    If it’s a regular part of your job to make phone calls, prepare a short script or a list of talking points. Practice by calling a friend or a family member. Choose a quiet and private area where you’ll be able to hear the call without interruptions.

    Record a clear voice mail message on your phone. Direct the caller to leave their questions and assure them that you’ll get back to them shortly. This will give you the chance to prepare your answers before returning the call.

  3. Be kind to yourself

    Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t do well at first. Think of the possible reasons why the call didn’t go smoothly and make a mental note. Just keep on receiving and making those calls and do your best to improve. The more you get used to it, the better you’ll be.

  4. Loosen up

    It may help you relax if you walk around and make gestures while you talk on the phone. Others make small doodles or accomplish small tasks (like assembling a jigsaw puzzle) to keep their mind on something else and lessen stress. You can also try placing a mirror in front of you when answering the phone. This can trick your brain into thinking that you’re speaking to another person face to face and make you feel less awkward.

  5. Answer promptly

    Answer emails, texts, Facebook messages or DMs promptly. It will establish that these are the quickest and the most efficient ways to reach you. Make your primary contact your email address. For example, when filling up contact details on forms, write down your email address instead of your phone number.

Sources: How to overcome phone shyness, Brett and Kate McKay, Art of Manliness; How to know if you have phone phobia, Arlin Cuncic verywellmind; Why introverts absolutely loathe talking on the phone, Liz Greene, Introvert, Dear; and Millennials hate phone calls and they have a point, Brianna Wiest, Forbes. Accessed November 20, 2019.

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