How to Be a Phone Person When You Hate the Phone

The shrill ring of a phone may seem harmless to some, but goodness knows the fear it induces in the hearts of many (mine included). As the majority of our communication is non-verbal, trying to converse without any visual context can be quite intimidating. Though younger generations have come to rely on text messages and face-to-face calls, there are times when talking on the phone is unavoidable.

Robert Staughton Lynd, a crucial figure in American sociology, once said, “The telephone is the greatest nuisance among conveniences, the greatest convenience among nuisances.”

Upon leaving for university, I was struck with the distance between me and the friends I held dear. I took to calling regularly, a task I’d previously dreaded. This habit only increased when I moved to L.A, a city renowned for its traffic. I went from barely enduring fifteen minutes on the phone to deeply enjoying hours of conversation with family and friends.

Here’s how to debunk your phone call fears:

1. Think ahead.

Part of the insecurity behind phone calls stems from not knowing what to say. Brainstorm what you would like to discuss. If it’s a business call, write down a list of questions you need answers to or points that need to be addressed. If it’s personal, think about what that person is going through or what you’d like to catch up on. Practice your first thoughts like you might for a public speech. It may sound silly, but rehearsing a couple sentences in my head has always helped reassure me before dialing.

2. Throw out your script if necessary.

Though business calls are much more linear, personal calls can become increasingly awkward if you stick strictly to a plan. Thinking about what you would like to discuss ahead may calm your nerves, but at the end of the day, remember to listen thoughtfully and respond accordingly instead of dreading your turn to speak. The more you envision the call as a conversation you would have over coffee, the better it will go.

3. Remember that a phone call is a continuation of a real life relationship.

This tip may sound obvious, but it’s easy to become unsure about the status of a friendship or business connection on the phone. Remember that if you’ve talked with this person prior, one awkward pause won’t invalidate your previous experiences with that person. If this is your first time conversing, keep in mind that a dislike of phone calls is common and that others will understand if conversation is slightly stilted.

The more you envision the call as a conversation you would have over coffee, the better it will go.

4. When in doubt, ask questions.

Whether you are interviewing for a job or talking to a friend, asking a good question is an excellent way to avoid breaks in conversation. It shows genuine interest and also gives you a chance to listen and absorb rather than rambling on.

5. Call before you think you’re ready.

Procrastinating a call that needs to be made in no way makes the obligation disappear. In fact, it increases the urgency of the answers you need and adds to your anxiety. Once you have considered what you need to discuss, think no more. Pressing the call button before you are ready positively forces your hand. The faster you do so, the less worked up you’ll be, making the phone call considerably less painful.

Without the invention of Mr. Bell, long-distance relationships would be nearly impossible or severely hindered. Though face-to-face communication may be preferable, the phone allows us to connect when that is not possible. It also provides a layer of disguise; since your counterpart cannot see you, you can more easily project confidence in situations where you may be uncomfortable. You can be doing anything while on a call (wear your pajamas, squeeze a stress ball, drink tea), so long as you are focused on the other person. Create a calm atmosphere and dial away.

“The only difference between success and failure is the ability to take action.” – Alexander Graham Bell

Are you a phone person? What tricks do you have for making it enjoyable?

Feature Image via Beth Cath

A current student of journalism and creative writing, Annika splits her time between Syracuse University and her home nestled in Seattle’s evergreens. Though words are her first love, she enjoys film production and film photography. She believes kindness is a sign of strength and espresso is best served dark.

7 COMMENTS
  • I’m so NOT a phone person, but I’m learning to be. Because it’s definitely HELPED score me a few clients that might’ve moved on, had I paused to answer the call. So now, I just DO IT. I work from home, but have set “working hours” when I’ll answer the phone. And anytime I need to schedule a call with someone but don’t want to play the back-and-forth game, I send out a link to SCHEDULE a call with me during working hours (through Stickyfolios.com). Whew!

  • Rachel December 1, 2017

    This was so good to read! I used to fundraise my paycheck (read: make a ton of cold phone calls) so I totally know that feel of dread of awkward interaction when the phone rings. Thanks for such a relatable post!

  • Claire DeSantis November 26, 2017

    These are such good tips! I rarely used my phone up until recently. My best friend lives in South Carolina and we’ve maintained our relationship via annual visits, occasional Facetimes and daily texting, but recently we have challenged both ourselves and each other to do more phone calls, both planned and sporadic. It’s been such a joy and relief to realize that it’s really not as scary as it seemed, and I’ve been able to experience some really genuine moments with her that just wouldn’t have worked in any other format. Thanks for the wise words, Annika! ?

    • Annika Hoiem November 26, 2017

      Thanks to you, Claire. I’m glad that you found the post helpful and that you’ve grown fonder of calling as I have!

  • Stefanie Keeler November 26, 2017

    Love this piece Annika! It’s so interesting how we’ve seen a difference with communication even between people in their early 20s to people in their late twenties. My last relationship we were both in our early twenties and texted versus talking on the phone. My current boyfriend is in his late 20s and I find that we barely text and instead talk on the phone, which I’ve come to love so much more!

    • Annika Hoiem November 26, 2017

      Thank you, Stefanie! After a while, I also found that calling is more personal and enjoyable. We often view texting as the “safer” option, when in reality, it can be much easier to misunderstand someone via text than over a call.

  • I’m so not a phone person. In fact, I don’t think I’ve used the phone for anything other than texting or going online for a LONG time! My phone calls are only restricted to quick one minute chats with my parents, haha.

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog
    http://charmainenyw.com

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