Have you ever made a call but wished the person on the other side doesn’t answer? Do you avoid making calls or having people call you up? Do you delay answering calls and prepare a script before picking up the phone? Would you rather text or email than take a call? If your answer is yes to all the above, turns out, you have phone anxiety or telephonophobia.
What causes phone anxiety
If you often prefer texting or emailing over a quick phone call, The causes of experiencing phone anxiety can vary for different people and stems from personal experiences such as having faced embarrassing moments on calls, suffering from social anxiety, and the fear of confrontation among others. It is important to explore your feelings and understand why you are anxious on phone calls and why.
The other choice—why do we prefer texting
When one chooses to text or send an email, they also choose not to have the conversation over a call. Why is it so? For starters, it is because we love to be in control of what we are saying. Despite there not being any cues to pick up on, having the ability to plan what you’re going to say, read the text before sending it, and also being able to delete the message later seems a safer option. Texting doesn’t require you to be ‘present’ or channel all your energy into the conversation. Additionally, texting gives an option to pace the conversation and think before responding.
The inability to pick on verbal cues and the fear of being judged is also an important factor. Some people struggle to gauge the speed and tone of the other person when on a call, and this can make people feel they’re lacking. And if you are an anxious person, there is a chance that a lull in the conversation could make you think (and worry) about them judging what you’re saying.
Ways to cope and overcome phone anxiety
You have to fight fire with fire here. One must gradually confront this fear by implementing different strategies. Start by placing yourself in a less anxiety-provoking scenario where you have to talk. You can maybe start by sending voice notes—a middle ground between a text message and a phone call. You could also have short and casual conversations with the people you're comfortable speaking to. Once you feel a little more confident to have these conversations, it's time to try speaking to other people.
It’s easier said than done, but try to practice quick relaxation techniques like smiling or taking deep breaths. It will help you feel calm.
Finally, celebrate the small victories by rewarding yourself and doing something that you enjoy. These positive reinforcements will encourage you to make the next call.
However, do not overthink or overprepare yourself. Do not read into what people say on calls and if they do not say something you expected, do not get upset. While being prepared before a call is good, don’t do more than what’s required. If taking down pointers of what you want to say helps, go for it. An important first step is to become aware of our limits. Speaking on the phone is a skill like any other. All that matters is that we identify the areas we need to improve on and make an effort to do so.
Inputs by Sherene Aftab, founder of Serene Hour Counselling & Career Advice Consultancy, Mehezabin Dordi, clinical psychologist, Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai.