I hate phone calls – and I know I’m not alone! I recently posted a video on my social media accounts, where I discussed how much anxiety I get around making and receiving phone calls. The response of others who related to my struggles was amazing. And made me feel way less pathetic, which is always good.
But this got me thinking – why do so many of us struggle with phone calls? Is this a relatively new thing with our generation? Or is it just more obvious now that we’re connecting online so much more?
I wondered if perhaps my phone call hatred stemmed from my pnd and anxiety, but if I’m being honest, I wasn’t fond of talking on the phone even before all that kicked off… so… guess I can’t blame it on that!
Then a couple of weeks ago, I had a bit of a light bulb moment, and all of a sudden everything clicked into place. I suddenly realised why I struggle with phone calls so much. And the weird thing is… once I understood why, they didn’t actually seem that scary anymore. Go figure!
So here are my reasons – some of them may resonate with you!
My anxiety stems from lack of control
When I’m communicating via text or email, I can usually:
- See who’s contacting me
- Decide when to read it
- Decide when to respond
- Consider my response over a period of time
- Edit my response until it says what I want it to say
- Have time to think everything over
But during phone calls, unless the person is already in my contacts list, I often don’t know who they are or what they’re going to say. And then when they do speak, I often feel under pressure to respond quickly. I can’t take time to carefully consider an appropriate response.
This limited control over the situation makes me nervous. And when I’m nervous, I tend to blurt out stupid shit. And knowing that I do that makes me more nervous. And so on.
I worry they’ll ask me a question that I don’t have the answer to. I worry that my rushed answer will make me sound like an idiot, or that I won’t be able to accurately communicate what I’m actually trying to say.
I’m a visual and kinesthetic learner
You may have heard of the three main styles of learning, but if not, I’ve summarised them here:
Visual learners learn best when they see information, either as written words or diagrams (or both!). Books and videos are both great for visual learners.
Auditory learners learn best from talking about the subject matter, or from listening to others explain it. Auditory learners may prefer audio books, lectures or speeches to gather their information.
Kinesthetic learners are the doers. They need to have a physical association when learning, either by doing something with their hands while listening and watching, or by actually DOING whatever it is they’re learning about.
Most people, myself included, are a mixture of the above. If I see something, read it, and associate some form of muscle memory with it, I’m away and laughing. If I only hear it, it takes me a lot longer to fully absorb the information. This is why I struggle with podcasts – but can learn from a video on YouTube, no problem.
As well as that, my hearing isn’t the greatest, and phone reception or sound can often be a bit dodgy. So that also leads to the anxiety and lack of control I mentioned earlier.
I’ve had bad experiences with phone calls
Many moons ago when I was young and fresh in the workforce, I landed a job in a cafe. Having never worked in hospitality before, I somehow managed to work my way up to becoming the weekend supervisor. This was very cool, but with my limited experience I obviously had a lot of learning to do. So quite often on a Monday, I’d get a call from the manager asking why I hadn’t done something (or why I had when I wasn’t meant to). For someone who hates to fail, these phone calls were my equivalent of hell.
Now, these conversations needed to happen. Otherwise I wouldn’t have learnt. But that didn’t make them any less cringey. Mondays were agony for me as I waited for the phone to ring. Every time I heard it go off my heart would sink as I waited to hear what I’d fucked up this time. It didn’t have to be anything big, either. Sometimes it was just a heads up that something had changed, but I took every bit of feedback to heart.
I’d like to say I grew a thick skin from that experience, but I haven’t really. I still panic when my phone rings that it’s going to be someone telling me I’ve stuffed up – even all these years later.
What to do if you hate phone calls
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but my psychology study has taught me that the best way to overcome a fear is steadily increasing your exposure to it. It’s called “systematic desensitization”. Which in this case basically means, make a bunch of phone calls and start picking up the phone – even if it’s a private number.
Understanding my fear around phone calls has surprisingly been incredibly helpful. It’s helped me stop and realise that it’s quite unlikely that it’ll be someone telling me off (because I work for myself! HA!). I also understand now that I don’t need to have all the answers straight away, and it’s perfectly acceptable to say “I need to think on that – I’ll get back to you”, or ask if they can send me an email confirmation. This realisation has honestly been a godsend, and has taken so much of the pressure off to be completely switched on during any phone conversation.
So that’s me. I still have anxiety around phone calls some of the time, but overall it’s been much better once I started digging into the cause. Technically I still hate phone calls – but I can face them and deal with them now.
Even private numbers… #adulting
Until next time,