The Shyness Project

Overcoming Phone Phobia

I’ve never been a big fan of the phone.  In fact, I’d rather drive out miles and miles to talk to someone in person rather than have to call them.

I’ve never really understood why the phone brought me so much anxiety. How was it different than going up and talking to someone?

Well, with the phone, there is no face-to-face contact.  You can’t use your expressions, you can’t use your gestures, and communication relies solely on your voice.

And often times when you call a person or company, you don’t know quite what to expect.  Are you going to reach the person you were calling for?  Are you going to reach a secretary?  Are you going to reach the voicemail?  There’s an element of the unknown with making phone calls, which can build fear.

And what if you stumble on your words or mix up what you were going to say?  What if your nervousness shows?

Those are just some of the many fears I’ve had before, and that many people with phone anxiety experience.  Are these worries rational?  No.  But are they there?  Yes.

So what do you do about them?  How can you calm your fears and make the call?

That’s what I’m hoping to find some more about.  If I can find ways that help me reduce my phone anxiety, then maybe those ways can help others too.

My personal plan to confront my phone anxiety is to call a variety of professionals and companies to ask for permission to do informational interviews.  I’m interested in learning more about the careers I’m researching and I’ve always wanted to do this, but could never find the courage.

My main areas of interest currently are occupational therapy, psychology, counseling, and writing.  I will make phone calls to find people in at least a majority of those careers.  I believe this will allow me to acquire valuable information about these careers that I couldn’t otherwise gain from a website or book.

Since my main fear is with calling people I don’t know or people I haven’t talked to on the phone much, I believe this approach will help me the most. I don’t experience anxiety when I am calling people I talk to on the phone regularly, like any of my family members and some of my close friends.  I think the anxiety interferes most when I have to call a company or call someone with authority.

This is my personal experience and it may be different from yours.  If you have any related fears or if any of this makes you nervous too, please tell me about it in the comments!  I’d love to hear your experience.  Wish me luck!

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28 thoughts on “Overcoming Phone Phobia

  1. Every day I receive many calls at my office.
    I’m also anxious about talking unfamiliar people. Some people are angry before I talk.
    If we meet each other, the number of troubles will decrease.

    • Ah that must be hard receiving so many calls all the time at work. It must be frustrating to have people speak angrily with you even before you say anything too. I agree that if you meet in person with someone there’s usually fewer issues and misunderstandings than there would be just talking on the phone. Thanks for sharing that with me cocomino!

  2. I have the same fears about phone calls – I hate them, especially when I know the person I’m calling isn’t going to be happy with what I have to say. And I really hate it when people call me at work out of the blue and I know I can’t do anything to help them but I feel so uncomfortable saying no.
    Seeing people in person isn’t any easier. I hide behind emails because I can say exactly what I want to say in a way that is coherent and unflustered. If I have to talk to people I start to panic and I forget things, or don’t pass on the information in the most logical way, but when I write it down I have time to make sure what I say is correct and makes sense. I just can’t do that “off the cuff”.

    • Yeah phone calls are especially tough when you are going to say something that you know probably won’t be well received by the other person. Or if you’re going to bring up a really sensitive issue or something that has been bothering you, that’s really hard too. Those phone calls are especially emotional for me, but luckily I don’t have to make them very often and only when issues arise.

      Seeing people in person about confrontational subjects can definitely be really difficult too. If a customer is angry or upset I imagine it must be really hard to talk with them. I think email is an easier way for me too to say exactly what I want to say. It gives me more time to think and structure my response rather than just saying whatever comes into my head at that moment. But the problem is that in a lot of situations you can’t just use email and you have to make phone calls or receive them, which is what I’ve always dreaded before. Thanks for sharing all this with me sleepydwarf, I appreciate it! 🙂 It’s always helpful when people share their experiences so those of us who can relate can feel comforted in knowing they aren’t alone.

  3. I hate the phone too — I think for introverts you’re just born with that fear. It’s all the unknowns that seem overwhelming!

    One thing I try to do — but don’t always succeed in doing — is going in with a positive attitude. It’s easy to create anxiety when you think about all the things that could do wrong in the call. Try visualizing a positive outcome: You get right through to the person you want, they have time to take your call, they are very helpful and welcoming, etc.

    As I said, not always easy to do — but worth a try. Good luck with your project!

    • Yeah being an introvert doesn’t make it any easier! You never really know what’s going to happen with a phone call.

      I can definitely see that being helpful! Sounds like a good strategy to me. It’s definitely worth a try! And thanks!

  4. I used to hate calling, in fact I don’t particularly like it now. But I became a journalist, and the phone is a way of life for journalists so I just had to get on with it. I usually handled it by making a list of the calls I would have to make: and often I would sketch out the questions I wanted to ask so I would never be stumped. This, and a non-negotiable deadline, ensured I got plenty of practice calling all manner of people. I still handle them the same way today: and I have developed a really confident phone persona who isn’t necessarily me, but who gets the jobs done.
    Great post today, Brittany.

    • Ah cool I was wondering what it would be like to be a journalist before and thought it might be hard for me because of all the phone calls you have to make. Having a list of numbers sounds good, that way you can check each one off once you’ve made the call and know how many more calls you have to make.

      Having a list of questions is definitely helpful too. And that’s great that you’ve developed a really confident phone persona! That probably is really helpful since you have to talk to all kinds of different people as a journalist. What kind of articles do you write? Do you write for a newspaper, magazine, or online journal? I’d be interested in hearing more about that.

      And thanks!

  5. I’ve never been a phone fan either – and you’re right, there’s nothing very rational about it – but I’d much rather text, write, walk over to the house – even to family. I’m not quite sure what it is I don’t like about it, but it probably is that separation, not being able to see body language signals, knowing that the person on the other end is actually engaged in the conversation.

    • Yeah I’m starting to think it isn’t so bad not liking the phone very much. As long as I can make calls when I need to like to businesses or professionals and can reduce the nervousness beforehand I think that’s all I need to accomplish. I don’t need to learn to love the phone or anything. I think part of it is because it is kind of draining to call someone because you know you will probably talk for a while. Email’s easier because you can just say what you were going to say and go back to doing whatever else you were working on. Like I multitask a lot with my homework and my writing and talking to people through emails or messages. Having to set everything aside to make that one call just doesn’t always appeal to me as much. These days with texting, email, and facebook I don’t feel like I have to use the phone as much with friends. Glad you can relate and thank you for sharing as well Patti! 🙂

  6. My job as an online teacher requires me to make calls to students at their scheduled time. Not easy especially if you’re student is a beginner or has zero English. But I have eventually come to liking it. I teach via video too and I don’t usually enjoy it. You see when I’m on the phone I can do anything I want to do without my students seeing me, especially when I get frustrated.

    If you really had to make calls and you’re worried about how you might come across to other people on the other line, I suggest you start by placing a mirror in front of you. Talk to them as if you are talking to yourself. Don’t forget to smile. A smiling tone can make a lot of difference. This technique has worked for me. You can always give it a try. 😀

    • That’s cool that you’ve come to liking it! Teaching via video must be tough!

      Thanks for sharing what technique has worked for you! There are a lot of different approaches and it’s good to hear what’s helped people. 🙂

  7. Yes, the unknow can be scary. You never know who is going to answer, have you dialed the right number? Is it going to be the voicemail? Or a machine? Or the secretary? The wrong departement?… I try not to see it like that. On the phone, there is only so much that can happened. And it usually starts by “Hello?” It may sound obvious, but see how there are some things that are not surprises? And then, you identify yourself, you say the aim of your call and the person – or the machine – is going to help with your request. When you think about it,although it can be very stressful, it is somehow easy to predict how the phone call is going to turn out. Some problem can occur (like you have explain in your other post), but very rarely, and even if it does occur, it still the same steps 1)Hello 2) who are you 3) what you are calling for.
    Hope it helps…

    • Yeah all those thoughts have popped up before even though they aren’t things that I should really worry about. It’s good to see things logically like you say. I like how you broke calling down so simply! I’ll remember that. 🙂 Thanks Vee!

  8. I HATE the phone! Glad to see we have something in common!

  9. Yeah. You can do it. I had the same problem. I still have it, but I know how to remedy it. I just have to work through it like you’re doing. It’s the nerves. That’s the problem, but I’m a believer that nerves are good, and they begin to diminish once you know you can do something. I’m still nervous about making phone calls, but not as nervous as I used to be.

    I think I need to set myself a new challenge. It’s weird though because I find myself getting freaked out by the idea of calling people for business purposes, but once I get going, even if I’m unsuccessful with the phone calls, I’m like, okay, so I can do it. The weird thing is, I learn from the previous calls, really interesting things that help tailor my script, and I definitely need a script for business calls.

    I learn things like, who normally picks up the phone, the assistant manager, the secretary or receptionist and what to say for them to pass on the message to the main manager or get his personal name so I can send an email or a letter. I learn what kind’a questions they ask of me, and then I take those questions, and I add them to my script so that in the next call, if I get asked, I’m prepared. My nerves tend to go even if I’m bummered about the litter interest my services.

    I think I’m a couple of months behind on your blog, as I just found it today. I’m going to have to check out your updates!!

    • Yeah after doing several of these it got easier each time and at some points I wondered why I ever disliked the phone so much. Making phone calls can be great at times because you get to hear each other’s voices, but other times I’m not too eager to make them. I’d say the more you do it the less nervous you get about it. But some calls are just going to be more nerve-racking than others, and that’s totally understandable. The key is to just breathe, make the call, and see how it goes. It usually goes alright and then it’s over.

      I think it is harder making business calls or calls to companies. Having to talk to bosses or managers is more nerve-racking for sure. Having some idea of what you’re going to say beforehand and writing out ideas helps though!

      Cool yeah, seems like most often you get a receptionist then get transferred, or you get a voicemail. It usually takes at least one transfer to get to the person you want. That’s why I like to have some different scripts ready in case I all of a sudden get transferred to the manager and talk to him immediately or if I have to leave a message. So are you referring to doing interviews on the phone when you’re applying for a job? Or something else? Because that definitely can be intimidating! It’s good to be prepared with your answers on some questions that you think might be asked of you.

      Thanks! How did you find it by the way? Through another site or just a google search? It’s always interesting to me how people find my blog. Welcome and hope you enjoy the other posts! I see your blog is about shyness too, have you been on a journey of your own to overcome shyness and now you have a site up with personal advice? I was scrolling through and I think that’s the message I got, though I couldn’t find too many of your posts. Thanks for stopping by Gemma!

      • Thanks for replying so quickly. That’s awesome. Yeah. Definitely. I do need to breathe. I speed up. It’s like I have to get everything out in 1 second for some weird reason. Why do I do that? I don’t know, but lately, I find myself catching a breath and taking time to speak. But other times, I forget until the person’s like, “Wha?? Say that again.” I read your other interviews, they went really well. You’ve seemed to conquer any shyness you may have once had. Calling up folks and asking for interviews is not something I would undertake lightly.

        I’m starting a business, well, we’ll see, doing web design in my area. And phone calls are the quickest way for me to get a response, but I’ve thought about advertising and direct mail because really, to be honest, making phone calls were the last thing I wanted to do. I would actually have to talk to these people. I’m slowly getting used to the idea that, yeah, I can still send the letters, but making phone calls are more immediate, and I find out about the people who I’m talking to.

        Haha. I found you through google. I literally just launched my website yesterday and it hadn’t occured to me that there might be blogs out there already that talk about shyness!! I seem to have this complex where I’m the only shy person in existance lol. But there are forums and help guides, the whole works. Seems like more of a common problem than a rarity.

        As for the journey, I’m still on it really. I think I’m naturally quiet. Thankfully, I’ve got a really out going family who can’t seem to understand why I hold back, but I think a lot of it is introvertedness (if that’s a word). I don’t think I could call what I have on my website as expert advice, but my own personal experiences and what works for me. I think the biggest thing for me is to do whatever I feel uncomfortable doing. It seems that’s how you get rid of your shyness.

        Your phone phobia section really resonated with me because I had no idea that you would call that, that….if that makes any sense. Looks like I gotz lots to read.

        • Yeah I do that with my speeches sometimes, talking fast is just a nervous habit I suppose. Or I talk faster sometimes even when I’m not nervous just because I’m eager to say something. I used to have to repeat myself a lot, though it was more to do with enunciation and volume. But now only every once in a while that happens. Thanks I really did enjoy the interviews, the only part I didn’t enjoy was making all the calls to set them up in the first place. There was a lot of phone tag and transferring and leaving messages. Actually conducting the interviews when they were set up and ready was much more fun.

          Yeah although I’ve reduced my anxiety with making phone calls to businesses, I still would rather email. I’ve enjoyed talking with people when we do the interviews but asking in the first place and going through various people to get to that point is a lot of work. Practice does help though and I’m sure if you do have to make some phone calls for your business that they will go ok.

          Haha yeah I used to feel alone in all this too, but then I started blogging and reading blogs! Then I realized that there really wasn’t anything out there that I was going through that someone else hadn’t gone through. Like I thought it was weird that I hated the phone so much but then I realized how common that is. Then I thought I was the only one who hated that remark about “it’s always the quiet ones” or things like that and I realized how many others felt the same way. You just don’t realize that because most people don’t tell others that. Reading about other people’s experiences is very comforting and it helps reassure you that you can do this if other people have done it.

          Yeah I’m an introvert too, and I think before when I first started this project I didn’t really accept that part of myself. But now I have, and I realize that I’m not going to be a loud and bubbly person. There are plenty of people that are that way but it’s just not for me. I’m outgoing and friendly at times and other times more quiet, depending on the situation.

          Cool I’m glad it resonated with you! I’m doing another one tomorrow but won’t be writing about that on here. I imagine it will go ok. I’ve heard it called phone phobia and phone anxiety mostly, so that’s why I named it what I did. Both mean the same thing pretty much and involve fear. Thanks for writing and reading! Good luck with starting up your site!

          • Thanks for the encouragement. That’s awesome. & Lol, “The Quiet Ones”.

            Yeah. I’m looking forward to next week. I’m taking on my phone phobia. I think I’m more shy on the phone than in person. Weird, right?

            And I have to apologise. I realise your website is called the Shyness Project, whereas I called mine The Overcoming Shyness Project. I really didn’t check that there was a website out there called that. I didn’t check much at all. Hmmmm. Sorry 😦 But I’m glad I found yours. It’s brilliant and inspirational. So thank you.

            • Thanks you! 🙂 And good luck with your site! I think the more people talk about this kind of stuff the better, because it’s something not a lot of people are comfortable talking about. And because of that, people don’t realize that they aren’t alone in their experiences, when they are in fact not alone at all.

  10. I’m telephone shy too.

  11. Jeez louise, I had no idea so many others hate talking on the phone! I try to avoid using the phone as much as I can and have always felt a bit pathetic because of it. Like everyone here is saying, I hate that people can’t see the nonverbal gestures and expressions over the phone, which is why I seek face-to-face communication whenever possible. My least favorite thing is leaving voice mail messages (I’ve left quite a few awkward ones!)

    I have recently started an internship at an agency that provides mental health services, and a lot of the people working there are constantly making and receiving phone calls. There’s one girl who comes across as overly nice and enthusiastic and a bit phony, to be honest, but sometimes I sit in amazement at how effortlessly she makes talking on the phone look. When I have to make phone calls to people I don’t know, I sort of have to plan out what I’ll say and then talk myself into just picking up the phone to get it over with. I usually do fine, but I rarely feel relaxed or comfortable with it.

    What we all need is the last thing we all want–to pick up the phone more often so we can gain some practice and confidence. When I started volunteering for a cat adoption organization, I absolutely hated that one of the tasks was to make phone calls to fosters if one of their cats was sick. I still don’t enjoy having to do that, but it’s forced me to get some practice with calling strangers since I’d feel way too guilty if I didn’t let someone know that the cat was ill.

    • Yep it seems to be a common dislike among several of us. 🙂 In person is much more preferable.

      Yeah making a phone call often takes planning for me too, and takes a little talking myself into as well. Some calls take a lot longer than others to work up the nerve. The actual phone call usually goes well or ok, I think the anticipation is the worst part.

      Practice definitely does make it easier, even if it is the last thing we want to do like you say. That’s great that you got some practice calling strangers through your volunteer work and found motivation to do so knowing that if you didn’t it could have serious consequences for the animals. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and commenting!

  12. This plagues me as well. For me, I really am scared about being ridiculed in some way or something unpredictable happens and I misinterpret the situation.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that once I actually start a phone conversation I ease up a lot after a few a while. The hard part is the anxiety beforehand and building the courage to actually dial the numbers and let it ring without hanging up.

    At first my voice shakes or I’m nervous, and I am very quiet on the phone waiting for to lead, but once I see it’s going all positive I can ask questions and I can ease up a bit. This is similar to driving for me. When I first learned to drive I had lots of anxiety specifically with merging onto the interstate. But once I merge on it’s smooth sailing (for the most part).

    Part of the reason I think I have so much phone anxiety is that I feel like they have all the power. If I call someone and piss them off they can make life difficult for me, ridicule me, or whatever. What I’m working on is learning that I have power, too, and maybe more than they have especially if I’m the customer.

    • Yes without a doubt the hardest part of making a phone call is the apprehension and anticipation of making the phone call. It’s hard to get your fingers to punch the numbers in, and it can be equally nerve-racking hearing the phone ring on the other end. I recently had to make a few phone calls to set up appointments and I was happy to find that my anxiety was fairly low when I did them quickly and had a clear idea of what I had to say. Other times though, I’ve felt a lot more anxiety, usually more so when I’m just thinking about having to return a call or make a call, but I try to always remind myself it doesn’t take away from my other successes. It’s not always going to be a straight path. I’m glad that you’ve been taking notice of what makes you anxious with phone calls too and that you’ve had some realizations that you have as much or more power in the phone call as the other person does. Sometimes I forget that too and it is important to remember. Thanks for sharing and for contributing!

  13. I always get nervous when making phone calls. It’s different on the receiving end and if it’s not an immediate family member, then I can be confident. I’m from a family of nervous talkers, who interrupt a lot or drone on endlessly. Or take on an interrogator’s position with me. It’s never warm or relaxed or positive. So talking to my siblings is impossible for me.
    I get nervous because I’m not sure I’ll properly articulate, what it is that I have to say. I write things down before making a phone call, Sometimes I practice, when I’m planning to leave a message but end up speed talking at go-time. Sometimes the line is not very good, I fear I’ll offend the other person by saying ‘sorry’ or asking them to repeat themselves. I try to smile when talking (but sometimes that adds to the anxiety). I try to be clear and calm, but there’s always a fear that I won’t be understood. I was into Oration, Performance and Debate as a child but right about puberty, I began to stammer a bit, during Public Speaking. It’s unpredictable and I try to recover as soon as it starts but… speech therapy might be a good idea.

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