Phone Anxiety Tips
Are you struggling with phone anxiety? When I first started working at office jobs, the usual tasks included setting up a voicemail greeting. I remember having a bit of phone anxiety.
In particular, because we were working in an open office format, as I felt as if everyone was listening and potentially judging what I said.
Yes, I knew I could always re-record if I didn’t like how it went. I’d heard other coworkers do this and never batted an eye. But, I felt embarrassed even to do that.
So, I usually resorted to recording my greeting at the end or beginning of the day. At a time when there were fewer people around.
Gradually though, over many years of needing to make and receive phone calls for work, I found it less daunting.
It’s no longer part of my job description now. I work from a home office and most communication is by email.
But, I’m confident that I can make or receive a call without hesitation. Though I do still prefer not to make calls in front of other people, I can do it when needed.
I don’t feel anxious on the phone or worry that I will say something silly.
At some point, when you do something often enough, it’s really hard for it to make you anxious (a process called habituation).
Whether your phone anxiety is a standalone fear or part of a larger problem of social anxiety, there are ways to get past your fear!
Millenial Phone Anxiety
It’s been speculated that rates of phone anxiety are on the increase because the phone is being used less and less.
Teens these days (Gen Z) are more likely to text or communicate through social media. They just don’t have the same exposure to using the phone.
So, when faced with using a regular old telephone, etiquette rules might not be clear. In fact, the whole concept of talking to someone without seeing them might feel weird.
What Is Phone Anxiety?
Phone anxiety is very real and can cause problems for you both in your personal life and at your job (if you must use the phone).
It’s a vicious cycle. You fear certain things happening (mind going blank, voice shaking).
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And right on cue, these things happen, largely because of your thoughts that they are going to happen (frustrating, right?).
This can lead to avoiding—which only prolongs your fear and makes it worse.
You might avoid making calls, procrastinate, or choose other ways of getting in touch even when it doesn’t make sense.
If you’ve ever sent a text to someone when a phone call would have been quicker or got to them faster, then you are avoiding.
Causes of Phone Anxiety
There are many potential reasons why you might have phone anxiety.
You might dislike talking on the telephone since you can’t see the other person and read their facial expressions. Maybe the sound of a disembodied voice feels weird to you. Silence on the phone might also feel awkward because you can’t see the other person.
You might not like the pressure of having a conversation on the phone. You’d rather take time to think about your responses, which you can do by text or email.
You might also feel like the other person is annoyed or bothered to have to talk to you on the phone. Or like me, you might feel anxious that other people can hear you while you talk on the phone.
Just like public speaking, talking on the phone can feel like you are being evaluated.
This causes you to self-monitor, which leads to feeling awkward. When you start focusing too much on yourself and become self-conscious, you no longer hear what the other person is saying.
(Watch the Youtube video below for tips on managing social anxiety on the phone from clinical psychologist Dr. Robert Duff)
Phone Anxiety Symptoms
Phone anxiety symptoms can be both physical and mental.
Physical symptoms include the following:
- shortness of breath
- a racing heart
- trouble concentrating
Mental symptoms include the following:
- procrastinating about making calls
- over-rehearsing what you will say
- excessive self-consciousness
- fear of embarrassing yourself
- “blanking” out
- feelings of panic
As bad as these symptoms feel, know that you are not alone, and this seemingly easy task affects many others in the same way as you.
How to Get Better at Talking on the Phone
Change Your Thoughts
First, play a little devil’s advocate with your negative thoughts.
What sorts of thoughts run through your head when you need to make or answer a phone call?
Start to write these down, and then come up with questions to ask yourself about them, to generate some more realistic alternatives.
Here are some examples below:
- The other person won’t want to speak to me.
- I’m bothering the person.
- I’m going to stumble over my words.
- My voice will shake.
- They won’t answer the phone if they don’t want to talk.
- It’s unlikely I will be bothering them.
- Even if I stumble over my words, they probably won’t notice or care.
- Even if my voice shakes, they probably won’t notice.
Get Some Practice
They say the only way out of your anxiety is through it, and that’s never more true than in the case of phone anxiety.
To get over your fear, you’re going to need to do a lot of talking on the phone. Or, at least, do it regularly.
Start by creating a list of the phone calls you fear most, starting with the least anxiety-provoking and going up to most anxiety-provoking.
Then, one-by-one, start going through this list and tackling each item until you can do it without feeling too much anxiety. The more you do something, the less hard it will eventually be.
Below is an example to get you started, but you should create one for your own situation, as your fears will vary in terms of their order.
- Call and order pizza.
- Call and make an appointment.
- Call a family member to talk for five minutes.
- Call a friend to talk for 10 minutes.
- Make a call in front of one other person.
- Make a call in front of a group of people.
If your main fear is answering calls, you’ll need to get creative. If you have a Caller ID, trying answering the easiest calls first and letting the rest go to voicemail. Then, work your way up to the harder ones.
Be sure to reward yourself along the way for each step you take.
Instead of imagining everything that is going to go wrong, put yourself into a positive frame of mind.
- Visualize phone calls going well.
- Smile as you are talking to convey a positive vibe.
- Prepare for the call, but don’t obsess over it.
- Make a list of important points so you don’t forget what to say.
- Tell yourself, “I’m good at making phone calls,” or “I make phone calls easily.”
Tell yourself this enough times, and you just might start to believe it.
And, if things don’t go exactly as planned, forgive yourself. Nobody really cares or notices.
If they judge you for being awkward on the phone, isn’t that a reflection of their character and not yours?
If physical symptoms get the better of you on the phone, spend five minutes doing some relaxation exercises before you hop on a call.
Breathe deeply, relax every muscle in your body, and picture a tranquil scene.
When you feel relaxed, dial the phone before you have a chance to talk yourself out of it.
See a Professional
Sometimes, phone anxiety is part of a larger problem with social anxiety. If that is the case for you, it might be worth reaching out for professional help. Therapy is now more accessible than ever through online platforms such as Betterhelp.
Most importantly, remember that you are not alone in this issue! Though you might feel silly being afraid of the phone, there are many other people experiencing the same thing.
Have you experienced phone anxiety? Share your experiences in the comments. And if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for our newsletter (at the bottom of this post) to access the free social anxiety resource library.
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- How to End a Conversation (in 6 Easy Steps)
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- 7 Types of Social Skills Training Programs