talking to people on the phone
February 26, 2009 8:58 PM   Subscribe

This is obviously a girl-induced question, but generally I dislike the phone no matter who I'm talking to because of good ol' anxiety/being tired. I'll never love the phone, but I was thinking about a few options. 1) Would it help to just randomly call stores daily and ask for things? 2) Volunteering as like a call-handler/receptionist somewhere (I applied for the receptionist deal at memorial park conservation). I'm lazy when it comes to volunteering though and I don't know if #1 is the best option because the other person isn't really talking as I'd be doing all the talking. What does the great council of mefites recommend? And no talking to people in everyday life more is not an option, I don't believe in socializing :).
posted by isoman2kx to Society & Culture (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I loathe the phone, but working in call centers for a couple of years cured most of my anxiety - although none of my dislike. While I don't actually recommend working in a call center, desensitizing yourself through exposure will probably help.

(Incidentally, the internet has saved me from having to make phone calls almost all the time, except for my folks, and they don't make me nervous. So... avoidance is a strategy too, I guess.)
posted by restless_nomad at 9:10 PM on February 26, 2009

I do not recommend working in a call centre. I did this, because I needed the work, though I too loathe telephones.
I hated it, grew to despise the job, my coworkers and my bosses, and was rightly fired.
Why not start by calling up your friends and family for a chat?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 9:17 PM on February 26, 2009

Is your dislike of the phone a problem in your life? I despise talking on the phone, but I don't have a problem with it and neither does anyone else. Why do you want to change this about yourself?
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:21 PM on February 26, 2009

I assume you're sitting in your home or lying in bed, holding the phone in your hand and staring at nothing. Boring, ugh. Two things will make it better:

1. Get comfortable. This means get a headset. Even the cheap single-ear bud kind is better than holding a phone against your head. Tuck the phone into your belt and now you have free hands and the world is your oyster.

2. The phone is waay better if you're doing something with your eyes, hands, or body.
You can look at something (like a Flickr slideshow of interesting photos on a topic that interests you). You can draw something, or do something handsy like cleaning your computer or sorting change. I like to do dishes, laundry, tidy up the apartment, or sort tax receipts while on the phone. Phone is also good if you're moving. A good time to catch up with friends is while walking home from work.

Bonus points: Phone is also better if it's visual and relaxed. With a person you feel comfortable around, try Skyping or video-chatting at the kitchen table over an evening snack. That's pretty amusing, and much more freeing than the phone because you can move around a little, your hands are free and the mic will get your voice from across the room.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:23 PM on February 26, 2009

Response by poster: Well. I think it goes hand in hand with my anxiety/depression history. I don't know if I'd ever "love" the phone, but I think I use my anxiety/depression as an excuse every single time someone calls me or I call them and I want to change. Sorta like a small step in changing my overall life from being tired/anxious/depressed to having some life in me, lol.

Particularly when you get a girl's number. You usually call them right? I know the philosophy can be text or call, but I usually text when I'm too scared/anxious about talking to them on the phone. It just doesn't have the same effect as a call you know?
posted by isoman2kx at 9:25 PM on February 26, 2009

Response by poster: @psuedostrabismus

what do you talk about though? I agree with you on the doing things while you're talking but sometimes I get caught up in that and then I just don't talk and then the other person sometimes doesn't talk either lol
posted by isoman2kx at 9:27 PM on February 26, 2009

My profession (nurse in an ICU) requires that I use the phone to call doctors at horrible hours of the night. I already suffer from some phone related anxiety, but the added stress of waking up what could easily be described as a hibernating bear makes it all the worse.

I can't claim I "got over" my anxiety, but working as a research assistant recruiting (oftentimes) paranoid and crotchety old veterans for a study was a great way to confront my fear. Same could go for any job where raising money is your primary goal, as opposed to a job where you are expected to sit back and take whatever the customer/client wants to give you (like customer service). I just forced myself to pick up the phone over and over again and dial. It at least gave me a tool kit to apply to unwanted phone contact.
posted by nursegracer at 9:31 PM on February 26, 2009

Growing up, I had severe social anxiety growing up, I'm talking bad. I didn't even start to get over this until I was about 18 when I first started waiting tables. What possessed me to even want to wait tables, I can't remember, but I did. That is what helped me get out of my shell and I highly recommend it. Maybe get a part time somewhere at a local restaurant (DO NOT WORK AT A CHAIN). Most people you will interact with are quite friendly and pleasant and you will learn the craft of small talk. Also other people that work in restaurants tend to be pretty outgoing which helps too. I still hate talking on the phone, but I can do it if I have to. There was a time in my life where I would have to calm myself down for about 10 minutes before every phone call I had to make, just so I wouldn't have a panic attack. Thankfully that isn't the case anymore. Anyway, take what you will from what I said. Hope this helps.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:35 PM on February 26, 2009

I'm not sure what you mean by obviously girl induced. I'm a girl, and I hate the bloody phone. I'm sure plenty of us do.

If you're trying to suit a particular girl that you already know likes to talk on the phone, or if you are a girl who wants to get better about talking on the phone, then yes, I would say calling stores is a good idea.

However--my personal issue with the phone is that I don't get the point. If you're calling a store, great, you call, ask them your question, they answer, and that's that. Done. So practicing by calling doesn't really help if you've got someone who wants to just chat.

I think we need more of an idea about what you want to feel comfortable with doing on the phone before we can give good suggestions about how to get there.
posted by nat at 9:35 PM on February 26, 2009

Response by poster: @nat

Well, with this particular girl, I don't know really know if she likes talking on the phone. I just started talking to her online and this is the first call after that.

As far as being comfortable on the phone, that's pretty much what I mean. I want to be able to, I don't know, have interesting conversations and have the ability to just be comfortable with pauses before I say something else.

I feel like I have to fill pauses on the phone with words all the time and such.
posted by isoman2kx at 9:39 PM on February 26, 2009

Ah, I see. (on late preview, sorry).

Yes, calling stores up is perfect. You want to find out if they have something you want.

Same with a girl. You want to find out if she wants to spend more time with you.

You don't need to have a big long stretched out conversation with a gal you just met; a quick chat + "let's meet for coffee" works just fine. Once you know if the girl wants a longer conversation, you can work out how to feel ok on the phone.
posted by nat at 9:40 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

And no talking to people in everyday life more is not an option, I don't believe in socializing :).

Its not the phone you fear its the socializing.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:45 PM on February 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Why hello there, me. My problem stemmed from attending college out of state, which resulted in family members calling me up endlessly and wanting to micromanage. The family thing has mostly gone away, but the phone problem expanded. To the point where I now HATE watching people walk around and squawk on the phone endlessly, almost as if they cannot bear being alone for even one minute. God forbid that I ever join their ranks. Maybe you fall along these lines, too?

The phone volunteering may not work. I worked the phone line at a previous job (for two years!) and I can tell you that it doesn't lessen the hatred. Though it does teach you how to fake it, and how to always have a response. I now sound like customer service, even when talking to family.

I don't recommend calling stores and asking if they have certain things. It's a quick conversation: "Do you have it? Yes, we do. Would you like us to hold it for you? Byehaveanicedayetc!" If you plan on using more calls to lessen the phone anxiety, you want something chattier. But then again ... baby steps.

Since the make-more-calls method never worked, I now just flat-out dislike the phone. My method of lessening the phone in my life was to not use it. I'd let my voicemail fill up. I wouldn't return calls, I'd respond by text. And if anyone sent me a text message, I'd reply quickly. Less blahblah, though some consider this an ass move. And they can't blame you for ignoring them, because you are responding! You still have to throw in the occasional phone call, though. But people will eventually get the point: "I need to call X ... oh wait, X doesn't do phone calls. But X does text!"
posted by Xere at 10:21 PM on February 26, 2009

- rephrasing the question: you have a problem calling girls and asking them out. Plus some other stuff.

- 10-second-researched assumption: You're a student older than 18 so I'm assuming that you're in a college/university.

Colleges and Universities need alumni money to keep operating, especially in these times.

I'm stupified that you haven't been solicited to work your post-secondary school's hotlines to schmooze alumni unto giving money to their alma mater.

... odds are that there'll be tons of outgoing talkative girls who volunatarily volunteer to do these things. Who are assertive. And foreward*. If your school pays their undergrads (I've never heard of one that didn't) to cold call alum, almost every program I've heard of has the workers in a common bullpen (or room somewhere) on campus.

Who knows, maybe there's a girl who's in the same boat as you who's doing it just to ... get out of the same boat.

*other characteristics may not resemble what is implied
posted by porpoise at 10:26 PM on February 26, 2009

Just be honest with the girl you're going to call. Tell her that you feel awkward and self-conscious on the phone (hopefully she'll think it's sweet and endearing, and she'll take that as her cue to lead the conversation).

Try not to feel bad about gaps and quiet moments, those happen in face-to-face conversations too.

If you want to have a phone conversation without being pressured to talk constantly, try calling each other during a TV program that you both enjoy and watch it together. I've done that with long-distance friends, and it's fun to feel like I'm watching with someone even if I'm alone, and it only requires miminal commentary.
posted by amyms at 10:26 PM on February 26, 2009

Why are you trying to get used to talking on the phone? I cannot stand the phone so I simply use it as little as possible. Unless you stutter or have anxiety while on the phone, I'm not sure why you need to "practice." However, if you are trying to improve your skills, then you might want to find volunteer work where you have to answer phones. Perhaps volunteer at the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, Goodwill, etc. where they need people to handle phonecalls. If you want to practice getting info instead of giving it, then perhaps you can find a volunteer job that requires you to advocate on behalf of people or do research to get answers to people.
posted by Piscean at 10:28 PM on February 26, 2009

Ironmouth hits it on the head. It's not a phone anxiety, it's a general social anxiety.

Getting comfortable with being social over the phone is harder than getting comfortable being social face-to-face - you're missing out on a million different tiny cues you'd other wise get. Now I'd bet you're going to say "but I just don't get those clues when I'm F2F with someone!", but I can guarantee you, you can't help but subconsciously pick up and respond to at least some of them. Once you realise that, and get comfortable with that fact, you can move on to a situation with a more restricted set of cues - the telephone.

Say you've got a broken leg, and only 1 crutch. Do you say "Argh! Getting around with just one crutch is too hard - but I don't have two, so I'd be better off getting around without any crutches!"? No, because although you've only got 1/2 of what you really need, it's still easier than doing without altogether. Same thing applies here, even though you've framed the question as "Help! My hand is on fire - how do I pick up my toast without burning it? p.s. do not tell me to put the fire on my hand out...".

Practice the face-to-face stuff a bit, and the non face-to-face stuff will get easier. You'll probably never be the bon vivant life of the party - and, let's face it, you might even remain the least interesting person in the room - but you'll be better at it than you were. Once you've gotten over that hurdle, and picked up the knack of integrating a few subconcious cues (both verbal and non-verbal), it's a lot easier to move on to the telephone.

As a free bonus hint that's equally applicable in both cases: it's a lot easier when you're interested, want to be interested, can sympathise with, or have some other real, imagined, or potential connection with the other person. And remember, other people are just as fscked up as you, probably in different ways, and 9 times out of 10 (in the real world; school is notoriously the reverse in this respect ;-), will extend even just a smidgen of sympathy to you if you seem uncomfortable. If they're even slightly interested in you or what you're saying, they'll cut you 10x more slack than you need.

And, look, I hate telephones. With a burning passion, for a million different reasons, mostly to do with social anxiety. 20+ years of working for the phone company, understanding exactly how they worked, fixing the damned things when they broke, and actually engaging and communicating complex subjects and exchanging pleasantries with people I'd never met, didn't change that one whit. I got better at socialising, but that was due to being forced to work face to face with lots of different people for 8+ hrs a day, 5 days a week. Once I was at ease dealing with people, in a professional and light social context, then I could apply that to over-the-phone.

I still ignore the phone 9 times out of ten when it rings. It's fun to watch people squirm when I do that ;-)
posted by Pinback at 11:22 PM on February 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

I used to be heart-poundingly terrified of the phone. Now, I still have a healthy loathing for it, but it doesn't induce anxiety, usually just the feeling that I'm about to be hassled by something.

What worked for me- working at my college's alumni fundraising call center (as mentioned above)- you're in the most awkward calling position because you know most people you call don't want to talk to you at all. There are usually a few calls a night where you actually land on someone who wants to chat about the school, and that's perfect practice for phone socializing. I also volunteered at my college radio station and was music director one year, which involved a ridiculous amount of phone schmoozing with people at various record labels. This was fantastic because I had to make lots of chit chat, but it was all about music, a topic I was extremely comfortable shooting the breeze about.

I've since had a bunch of jobs that have all required fairly extensive use of the phone, and really, exposure and practice is key.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 3:09 AM on February 27, 2009

I used to loathe talking on the phone, but I'm fine with it now and that came from just learning to focus entirely on the conversation to the extent that I'm not consciously aware that I'm on the phone.

Of course it does mean that I still can't make a phone call at the same time I'm doing something else (I'd crash, for example) but for interminable arguments with successive girlfriends it's perfect. On second thoughts, you're better off exactly as you are!
posted by dickasso at 11:24 AM on February 27, 2009

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