The Shyness Project

Archive for the category “Month 11 Phone Phobia”

Third and Fourth Interviews

I’ve done two other informational interviews since the other two.  One did not involve the phone and was in-person with my teacher who is also a career counselor, but that was a great experience as well.  I had a wonderful time speaking with her and her assistant and we connected really well.  We talked a full half hour and could have easily gone longer if she hadn’t gotten a knock on her door from someone waiting for a counseling appointment with her.  There were a lot of laughs and smiles and I felt a lot closer to her and her assistant after the interview.  And for the first time career counseling or counseling in general sparked an interest in me.  I’d never given it too much thought before and just kind of dismissed it but after talking with them it’s something I would consider now.

The other interview I did was with my close blogging friend Barb who I met through this project.  She’s a psychologist and has written several self-help books so I was interested in learning more about her career path.  I was a little nervous to call her because we had only emailed in the past, but it went great and was just like talking to her through email.  I felt like we had spoken before on the phone and like she was a family member or something.  So it was nice that we were so comfortable talking on the phone.  What she said about making a difference in some of her clients’ lives and being later told by them, “this was all possible because of you” really touched me and I thought that was awesome.

Both interviews went really well and I enjoyed talking with each of them about their career journeys.  Doing these interviews has been pretty exciting for me and I feel like I’m on a high after each one, much like how I would feel after I struck up conversations with strangers in previous months.  I’m getting a lot out of these interviews and have enjoyed learning more about various careers and connecting with the people who work in these fields.

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Second Informational Interview

There could be a number of posts on the calls I made to get to my second informational interview, but I will just cut to the chase here as time is running out. I got to speak with an Occupational Therapist this time, which was great. The first interview I did had been with a Physical Therapist and had been an in-person one. This time, however, it worked out best for the Occupational Therapist that I do a phone interview, so I agreed to that. I thought it would be a lot harder to do a phone interview because you have to hold the phone with one hand and write with the other. But as it turns out, it wasn’t hard to do this and I actually enjoyed this phone interview more than the in-person interview! We managed to connect well on the phone and she was very friendly. After talking with her and her secretary at the clinic several times, we finally arranged to do the interview on Saturday at 2pm.

Saturday came along, and I wasn’t too nervous, but the interview was definitely on my mind. I had a good peaceful morning though, as this was the same day I tried meditation. At 2pm I paced a little, then sat down and called. She answered, and I said who I was again and asked if this was still a good time to talk. To my surprise, she had completely forgotten about the interview! She said she had to pick up her son and asked if I could call back at 4pm instead. So I said that was fine and agreed to call her back then, reassuring her that I wanted to do whatever was most convenient for her. We hung up, then I started making a late lunch for myself. All that nervousness beforehand had been for nothing. I’d have to wait another two hours and call her again.

But then, maybe a mere 10 minutes later, my phone rang! My heart jumped! It couldn’t be her could it? I checked the number and it was her. What was she calling for? I answered and she said that her son didn’t need a ride after all, and that we could talk now if that would be ok. I said that would be fine, and sat down and got out my notebook and pen. I held the phone in my left hand while I wrote with my right. I went over the purpose of the interview again and how long it might take. After the first interview I learned that the timing really depended on the person and while I had expected 20 minutes or so the first time, the reality had been about 10 minutes. I usually ask about 10 questions so people can choose how fully they want to respond and won’t feel like they’re being bombarded with questions. So I asked her each of my questions and she was really thorough so we probably talked about 20 minutes.  The conversation went smoothly as I responded to her replies. I’m sure I did speak a little fast at first with some of my questions and had to clarify one, but other than that it went well and was helpful. I asked her if I could shadow her sometime and she said I probably could if I called the clinic to arrange it.

Her interview was very helpful. I’m glad I’m doing these interviews because they not only help me with my phone phobia, but they also help me learn more about the careers I’m interested in. There are some things you just can’t get from a website or book and hearing personal experiences has been an awesome experience for me.

First Informational Interview

A few hours later the lady I had talked to about the physical therapist interview called back and we arranged the meeting.  I was actually able to come in the next day.

I was nervous beforehand, but not too nervous.  It wasn’t like I was going to be answering any questions like in a job interview.  I would be the one asking the questions and it would all be for informative and casual purposes.

When I opened the door to the clinic and stepped in, I took in the surroundings of the place.  There was a man working on some type of exercise machine and lots of other equipment around.  I turned to face the secretary who I figured was the lady I had spoken to on the phone and introduced myself.  She pointed me to where I should sit, only a few feet away where a physical therapist was seated working on papers.  I hadn’t expected this.  I thought I would be talking to someone in a private office, not in the middle of the main room with the secretary and patients around.  I felt a little uncomfortable.

But I went over to him, introduced myself, and sat down.  I went over what I was there for again, saying it would probably only take 15 to 20 minutes.

“That long?” he said.  “I thought this was just going to be a few minutes.”

This threw me off, but I said, “Oh, well whatever is convenient for you!”

After checking with him that it was still ok to do this interview, I started on my questions.  I first asked him why he chose to be a physical therapist out of all the other careers.  He said he grew up with family that had all gone to med school, and he had done that too at first, but then discovered that he really liked physical therapy and switched to that.

I nodded and scribbled brief notes so I could write up my interview later.  I felt a little self-conscious writing notes as he stared at my hand.  But then I asked my next question, and he answered that.  The interview actually went really quickly because he was brief with his answers.  I had expected it to take a lot longer, but I don’t think it took more than 10 minutes.  I only prepared 10 questions because I figured each response might take a while, and had thought of cutting that list down, but it’s a good thing I didn’t.  I spoke a little fast at times too and it was hard for me to feel comfortable in the setting we were in, but in the end I got all my questions answered.  After I was done, I thanked him, shook his hand, and then thanked the secretary for getting back to me so quickly and arranging the interview.

Walking out the door was a relief as the cool air blew across my face.  My first interview was complete!

Getting Return Calls after Leaving Voicemails

The next day I did not get several calls like I had been expecting.  I had my phone nearby and my notebook ready for when the calls would come.

Eventually, I got a call.  But unfortunately, when I saw the phone ringing, I was driving.  So all I could do was helplessly watch the phone ring until I could park.  I had just arrived for a doctor’s appointment with my mom and was already in a hurry, so I wasn’t sure if I should call back now or wait.  I got nervous thinking about calling back.  My mom urged me to do so right away though.  It took me a little while after we got out of the car and started walking, but then I finally called back, notebook in hand.

Before calling I had listened to the voicemail the lady left, and she had said that they didn’t have any Occupational Therapists at their clinic.  But I decided that since she was so prompt about getting back to me, I might as well take advantage of the situation and interview a Physical Therapist instead.  I’ve always been curious about that too and I thought it might be helpful to talk with a Physical Therapist.

So I called back, and the lady answered, and I explained who I was and that I had just missed her call.  She told me again that there weren’t any occupational therapists, and I asked if I could interview a Physical Therapist instead.  She sounded surprised, and asked what I wanted to do again.  I explained that I wanted to do an informative interview just to learn some more about the career.  She asked if this was for school and I said yes, even though it was partly for school and partly for my own use.  I think asking for informative interviews must not be a typical request based on the reactions I’ve gotten so far.  I was very careful to be clear on my intentions though to make sure they knew I wasn’t trying to get a job.

She said she would call me back later once she had talked to one of the physical therapists.  I thanked her, and hung up. It was a relief to be done with the call for a little while even though I didn’t know when I’d have to pick up the phone again for the call back.

Leaving Voicemails After Hours

After I had called Kaiser and had dealt with all that confusion, it was after 5pm.  I knew most places would be closed by now, but I still had 3 more places I wanted to call while I had momentum.  I knew I would be reaching voicemails at this point, but that actually made it a lot easier for me to call.

So I called a physical therapy clinic and left a message, asking if there were any Occupational Therapists there that I could interview.  I left a similar message as I had just left for the head of the department at Kaiser so it was much easier.

Then I called another physical therapy clinic, and left a message there too.  I wanted to see what places had Occupational Therapists since I knew they might only have Physical Therapists.

Then I called a psychology clinic and left a message for a psychologist who actually specializes in anxiety disorders.   I thought he would be an interesting guy to talk to since I have an interest in that.

Leaving the messages after the last confusing call was a nice break and a good way to ease into talking with more people about arranging the interviews.  I was nervous for the return calls that I expected would be coming the next day though.

First Time Calling for an Informational Interview

I had planned on making my first call right away, but found that every time I thought about doing it I was filled with a lot of dread. I just didn’t want to think about it. So I put it off a day.

The next day, I prepared myself to make some calls. I used the internet to research various places I could call to ask for informational interviews and wrote down the numbers.

When I was ready with the first number (Kaiser hospital) and all I had to do was press send, I felt my heart pounding. I couldn’t bring myself to just push the button though, and the longer I waited, the worse it got. Eventually I put down the phone and went to the computer. I googled “phone phobia” and came across a variety of postings by people who have phone phobia. Reading other people’s fears helped me, and made me realize how much harder a lot of others have it even. Some can never bring themselves to do it, or wait weeks.

After reading others experiences, I felt comforted. I picked up the phone again and held my thumb over the send button. I still hesitated. But then as I was shifting on the couch, I accidentally pushed send!  The phone was ringing!  By then I had no choice but to let the phone keep ringing and prepare to talk with someone. I didn’t mean to push the button like that, but it got the job done!

I wasn’t taken to a person though, and instead had to punch in all these different numbers to get where I wanted to get to. Then all of a sudden the phone was ringing again.  A lady answered, and I said my spiel. To my dismay, soon after I had finished talking and she had begun to talk, the call somehow got lost. I had to call again!

So I called again, punched all the different buttons again, and got a hold of the lady again, saying I had just called and the call got lost. I repeated what I had asked earlier.  She told me that she didn’t think there were any occupational therapists I could interview in this department. My heart sank.  I wasn’t quite sure what to say then and was confused on why there weren’t any occupational therapists I could talk to. She said she would connect me with the operator then and maybe he could help me.  So I agreed, and the phone rang again, then a man answered. I gave him my spiel again, then heard nothing on the other end, then found the phone ringing again! I didn’t know what was going on or where I was going to be taken to next. It seemed like the operator didn’t know how to help me either.

The phone was answered by a lady who I thought was the same lady I originally talked to and had connected me to the operator, and after verifying, I learned it was her again! I wasn’t getting anywhere and neither of them knew how to help me. It was kind of stressful and confusing. It wasn’t what I expected to happen. Eventually she said that she would transfer me to the head of the department where I could leave a voicemail. So the phone rang again, then I got the voicemail message. Luckily beforehand I had written out a few different scripts depending on whether I got a secretary, the person, or the voicemail. I looked at my voicemail one and left my message, repeating my name and number twice and being sure to go slow. I was told I wouldn’t hear back  until Monday.

That first call didn’t go as smoothly as I had thought, but I managed to get through it. The hardest part was just making the call in the first place, which funnily enough I finally was able to do because I accidentally pushed the send button. If this doesn’t happen though, in the past I have had my brother or mom push the button for me since sometimes I really just can’t bring myself to do it. I get nervous as I hear the phone ring, but at least I’m finally making the call.

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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