For so many years, I had a real issue with talking to people on the phone and I thought it was just a weird quirk that I had. As time went on, I noticed that more and more people had the same issues. It appears to be a more generational thing as we very rarely actually have to communicate with others over the phone. We either talk face to face or just message each other (text, messenger, WhatsApp, etc.). Once I was employed, it became a necessity for me to speak to people over the phone, but not just anybody; clients or strangers! You can imagine the anxiety related to it. The question is, how did I get over it?
In order to conquer a lot of different anxieties, you first have to do it mentally. In this case, I would imagine myself talking to the person on the phone. Not only that, but I would prepare what I was going to say. There are two parts to that. The first is practising the introduction part and the second is the agenda of the phone call.
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! Keep going over in your head, the first line you will speak. A lot of people with anxiety fear the unknown, or embarrassment, so by being confident in the first line, you set yourself up for success. If you don’t have it clear in your mind what you want to say, then the anxiety may take over, causing you to jumble up your words.
Keeping focused on the agenda will help keep the anxiety at bay. There is a reason for the phone call you are making and that should be your motivation for going through with it. If you find yourself getting anxious and not being sure what to say next, bring it back to the agenda. At the same time, it’ll also help keep the conversation as short as possible.
As with most things, it gets easier the more you practice it. It took me about a year before I realised that I didn’t have a problem talking on the phone. You learn as you go, and whenever things go wrong, you prepare yourself slightly differently for the next time. There may be moments when you don’t hear something correctly or you don’t catch what the person says, but as time goes on, you become more comfortable asking them to repeat themselves or spell something out.
Before making a phone call, give yourself a minute or so to clear your mind of troublesome thoughts. Repeat positive affirmations to yourself such as ‘I can do this’ and try out some breathing techniques so that you are as calm as possible before making the phone call.
You can try practising talking to friends over the phone but honestly, that didn’t make a big difference for me. Work phone calls carry a certain amount of pressure that personal phone calls don’t. It can help get you started if you never really use the phone so that you take incremental steps towards being able to use the phone comfortably.
People who suffer from anxiety are extremely perceptive to non-verbal cues such as changes in facial expressions so when that is taken away from us, communication can be harder. One of the best things about modern-day technology is that people use email just as much as phones so it’s always a good idea to send a follow-up email confirming any information you have discussed. If they are relaying information to you, write it down then and there, then repeat it to them to check that it’s right before ending the conversation.
After the phone call, depending on how intense it was, you may want to have a five-minute walk to release that anxious energy. Focus on the positives of what you accomplished and then put it in the past so that you can focus on the next thing.