I was 12 years old when I made my first phone call. I know, that’s late, but I was way too scared to talk on the phone! Just the thought of it made me want to lock myself in my room and never talk to anyone ever again. I did anything I could to avoid phone calls. If I wanted to schedule a play date, I made my parents call my friends for me. If someone from school called with a question about the homework, they also had to talk to my parents. I rarely even talked to my family over the phone. They all lived nearby, so I ignored their calls and just waited until the next time I saw them in person.
As I got older, I understood that I couldn’t avoid every phone call, not if I wanted to embrace being a tween. In fifth grade, one of my friends loved talking on the phone. She would call me Sunday nights and talk for half an hour, but I never said anything. I sat in silence, occasionally laughing. I knew it was weird that I never said anything, but the moment I got on the phone, it was like I forgot how to say words. After those one-sided phone calls in fifth grade, I tried to get better with using the phone. I answered the phone when my grandma called, I called my parents. The more I used the phone, the easier it got, but to this day, I still avoid talking on the phone whenever possible. Everyone knows to never call me. Text me, email me, hunt me down and talk to me in person, because very few things stress me out more than a phone call.
While texting and email can substitute a phone call when socializing, the real world of employment sometimes requires using the phone. This past summer, I interned with a publishing company. Most of my work was done over email, but one day, I needed to call a client to discuss queries. After writing out a speech of what I needed to say, I dialed the phone. There was no answer. I left a message and asked him to call me back when he had the chance, then I spent the rest of the day living in fear. It was the most stressful work day of my life. It wasn’t even that I was afraid of what to say on the phone. Like I said, I planned out what I needed to see. But the fear of not knowing when he would call back was overwhelming. Also, I had to talk on the phone in front of all my co-workers. I didn’t have my own office to hide in. If I messed up, everyone would hear. They’d also hear any small talk I was forced to make. When the client called back, everything went smoothly, but I was still shaken up for the rest of the day. After that day, I realized I really needed to improve my phone skills. My part-time job requires me to answer the phone all the time, and if I eventually want to have a real publishing job, I can’t avoid the phone forever.
If you share my phone fear, I’m here to help! Here are some of my best tips for talking on the phone:
- Know what you’re going to say. I had to call a former boss about working for her again, so I spent an entire day writing out what I needed to say to her. From saying hello to hanging up, it was all planned out. I even wrote out separate conversations for every possible scenario. Whether she said I couldn’t have the job or that the position was my mine, I knew exactly what to say. Being prepared for a phone call makes it less intimidating and eases most of my phone anxiety.
- Location is very important. When I’m on the phone, I need to be somewhere I can walk around. I cannot sit still when talking on the phone! So I make sure I make all phone calls in a place with a lot of room where no one is judging me. It’s not unusual for me to start spinning around on a desk chair or to start doing yoga when I’m on the phone. Moving around makes me feel more comfortable, so if I need to be on the phone, I better be somewhere with a lot of space.
- Don’t give up. Whatever you do, don’t hang up until the conversation ends. Even if you start panicking or no longer know what to say, continue the phone call. A few days ago, someone called me at work to talk about billing, which is not my area. I didn’t know what to tell him, but I tried my best to answer his questions even though my every instinct was telling me to end the call. Not only is hanging up rude, but it’s a cop out. Don’t give yourself that option because you don’t want to rely on it. Stick with the phone call. It will end eventually, but if it does become too much to handle, make up a good excuse and say goodbye. Say there’s someone on the other line or you need to get going. We all do that, so don’t feel bad. Even people who love talking on the phone will use those lines to hang up.
- Do a practice run. If you know you have a very important phone conversation in your future (such as an interview), practice with someone you feel comfortable with. Last week, I had to interview someone over the phone for a project, so I called my mom the day before. Since talking to my mom doesn’t make me nervous, I can be on the phone with her for hours. I didn’t even go over my interview questions with her. I just called her to get comfortable on the phone and make sure the reception was okay. When it came time to do the actual interview, I was already more at ease on the phone. Practice is key.
I don’t know why I’m so afraid of the phone. You’d think it would be easier than talking to someone in person, but I’d much rather talk face-to-face than over the phone. Anxiety can be weird in that way, but I am happy to say that I’m getting much better when it comes to the telephone. My job requires me to talk on the phone all the time. The other day, I answered the phone even though it was a minute past closing and I wasn’t required to! I think that means I’m becoming the type of person who likes the phone, which is a twist none of my friends and family saw coming.
I may be more comfortable on the phone now than when I was twelve, but I’m still trying to get over my phone fear. If you’re also afraid of the phone, or you’re just really good at talking on the phone, please share your tips.