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 Marc Lemoine