How can I overcome my aversion to using telephones?
December 7, 2004 10:07 AM   Subscribe

I have an irrational aversion to using the telephone, even in the most innocuous and impersonal of situations (like calling to find out if some place is open, if a store sells a certain thing, if a musical venue is selling tickets to a show in advance, etc). I wouldn't go so far as to call it a "fear", though I do get somewhat nervous when forced to use the phone in such circumstances, which makes it inconvenient and somewhat unpleasant for me when I have to use the phone for whatever reason. So how can I overcome my phone aversion?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (45 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This is not necessarily an answer, or help in finding an answer, but I hope that it is helpful nonetheless to know that you're not the only one. My scale of telephone nervousness goes from 0 (phoning my parents, since I do that all the time) through 1 (phoning a friend or a work colleague) and 5 (work related phone calls to people I don't know) and then jumps to about 99999 (phoning a fancy restaurant for reservations, or a store or other business to ask a question).

As an example, it took me almost an hour to psych myself up to be able to phone a gym that opened near my office and find out what their hours were so I could make an appointment to check it out. Actually going to the gym to check it out, no problem. Making that phone call, psychological trauma.

I don't have any advice, just empathy, but I'll certainly be reading this thread with interest.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:12 AM on December 7, 2004

Hmmm... from the way you worded your question it sounds as if you do make the calls, and that your discomfort with the phone doesn't stop you from attending to business or buying tickets. If so, why do you think you need to change this about yourself? I dislike making calls too, and if I can get someone else to do it for me, or avoid the phone and use the internet, I will. Otherwise... I just grit my teeth and deal with it.

If I read you wrong and your aversion does get in the way... um... I dunno.

[on preview, like jacquilynne I can offer empathy, if not solid advice]
posted by idest at 10:20 AM on December 7, 2004

I don't know about the original post, but I bet this would help jacquilynne: Volunteer for a favorite cause in the role of someone who has to take/receive telephone calls. For instance, if you like public radio or TV, volunteer to answer phones for their pledge drive. Or if you kid is in an organization that holds a banquet, volunteer to call businesses for door prizes. The key here is to focus not on yourself, but on the cause you are serving. Once you spend enough time on the phone, making calls will feel comfortable.
posted by Doohickie at 10:21 AM on December 7, 2004

My advice would be to just do it, over and over again.

Part of my job requires me to speak to middle and high school students about issues they don't really care about. When I started, I was panic stricken (HS wasn't pleasant and I had phobias) but I got through it. Then did it again and again and again. Each time it was a little easier, but it took 40-50 times before I was even sort of comfortable.

Now though, I can breeze through it since I have done it 100-200 times. My understanding is that phobia aversion training is based on similar methods.
posted by ..ooOOoo....ooOOoo.. at 10:28 AM on December 7, 2004

I guess that was the idea behind my suggestion. I think doing it for a cause other than yourself draws the attention from your own unease and also motivates. I used to have this problem to a greater extent, but then was "volunteered" to be a Den Leader for Cub Scouts. I had to call parents on a regular basis, some of whom I barely knew, and managed to get through. It also helps if you know what you want to say and prepare some notes, kind of like a script.
posted by Doohickie at 10:34 AM on December 7, 2004

I used to have the exact same thing, and then a took a job that meant using the phone a lot. Just keep using the phone, have some prompts infront of you with what you need to say, and it gets better.
posted by Orange Goblin at 10:37 AM on December 7, 2004

Usually such nervousness comes from not wanting to sound stupid. By asking a question about something, you're admitting you don't know everything. Other times, you just don't know the "script" for the call you are making. I've found it helpful to ask a good friend who is comfortable on the phone about it ahead of time. That way, I know what to expect and can be reassured about the normalcy of the call I'm making. Don't make a big deal about it, just ask in a low-key sort of way. Or talk to a friend who works in the particular field. You'd be amazed by the moronic calls they get on a daily basis. Your little inquiries will seem like nothing.
(Words from someone who can speak to an auditorium full of people but is hesitant when it comes to picking up the phone)
posted by wallaby at 10:38 AM on December 7, 2004

Wallaby, please get out of my head. Your exactness in describing how I feel is scaring me.
(Words from someone who has given speeches to an auditorium full of people, in a foreign language just to be difficult, but is, as previously described, still hesitant to pick up the phone.)

That was a very good description for how I feel about the calls. The reservations one is key for me. I like nice restaurants, but I don't go to them often because I simply can't stomache the thought of sounding stupid or uncouth on the phone. If I call Perigee and ask for a reservation this weekend, will they think I'm dumb, because clearly a restaurant of that calibre would require reservations weeks in advance? If I call weeks in advance will they say they don't take reservations that far in advance, or even just wonder why anyone would bother making reservations that far in advance? I have no idea, and thus, I will never eat at Perigee unless someone else makes the reservation and invites me.

Part of that comes from being a small town girl with a lower middle class background who now lives in the big city and has pretenses towards and upper middle class lifestyle. I don't have a natural social background in a lot of these things, but I don't want anyone to think I'm a hick, ya know?

I used to have a job in sales that required me to do outcalls to book appointments, and I didn't have a significant problem with that. But then, I had a script. An actual, honest to god script sitting in front of me. And I sort of knew people were going to be cheesed when I phoned, so I didn't have to worry about them thinking I was stupid. They'd be too busy thinking I was annoying.

I know I'm talking a lot in anonymous's thread, but I hope I'm providing some more detail that's close enough to anonymous's situation to make responses to what I say useful to him/her.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:49 AM on December 7, 2004

Consider practicing: call when you don't care what the answer is. Call a department store you're not planning to shop at, and ask what time they close. Call a local store that you know the location of, and ask directions (decide ahead of time where you want directions from). Call a ticket office and ask about the availability of tickets for a show that you don't have any interest in. Do this (say) five times a day for a week or two, and see if you feel differently about make phone calls.

The purpose of practicing is to make telephone use routine. [I remember reading a book about shyness where one exercise was for the shy person to go to a store, buy something, then return it the next day - unopened - for a refund.] Aversion is a sign that you're worried about something negative (unpleasant) happening, so you avoid the situation altogether. If you get enough experiences where nothing bad happens, your mind will start disassociating that stimulus (phone call) from an anticipated negative response.
posted by WestCoaster at 10:50 AM on December 7, 2004

I'm curious, though my curiousity will never be sated, to know if anonymous has problems on the phone, or just preparatory to making the call. I get ten kinds of worked up about making phone calls (or--for that matter--writing formal emails or email to people I don't know, or even just talkin' to folks), but once the call goes through it's usually fine.
posted by kenko at 10:56 AM on December 7, 2004

I can echo what a lot of folks have already said. Part of it was practice (back in the day I was music director of my college radio station, and had to sit on the phone for hours with stangers who were much cooler than I).

In terms of calling businesses, I guess I'm just more selfish now. I'm calling because they 1) have something I want, or 2) screwed up something I wanted, and I want to get my way. I've also become one of those dreaded "let me talk to your manager" people, so it's fair to say I no longer care what strangers think of me when conducting business.
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 10:59 AM on December 7, 2004

As others have said, practicing is good. You may also find it helpful to 'script', that is write out what you want to say so that you can read from it.

I don't see a lot of resources out there, but one of the terms for this is "telephone apprehension".
posted by kreinsch at 11:00 AM on December 7, 2004

This totally resonates with me. I didn't go to my senior prom because I just couldn't pick up the phone and call the girl (who knew I wanted to take her and was willing to go). But I could have done it had I run into her in person. I think it has something to do with the lack of visual clues, at least for me. I'm still not a fan of the phone and I find I can't sit still when I'm on it, pacing or rocking in my chair.

In addition to good advice above, I sometimes create a little "cheat sheat" that covers the points I need to raise during the conversation. It helps keep me on track and keeps me from making long pauses in the conversation.
posted by tommasz at 11:05 AM on December 7, 2004

I have the same issue and it's all about working up the nerve to actually pick up the phone. Once I'm on, it's fine, and I've even been known to get very bold and say "THIS IS UNACCEPTABLE" and haul out the ass-kicking on certain companies.

I think my main problem is that I feel like I'll be interrupting when I call people outside of my main circle of friends and family. I have issues the other way around with the phone too and always screen my calls.

I've gotten better after working at two places where I had to answer the phone a lot, but that didn't really help that much because I just came to dread receiving calls from annoying customers or having to call difficult customers.
posted by stefnet at 11:07 AM on December 7, 2004

How about when you get an answering machine? Half the time that happens I'll just hang up because I'm not ready for that situation. Practice does nothing!
posted by smackfu at 11:09 AM on December 7, 2004

I have this problem too. I get a pang of fear when the phone rings and the caller ID isn't immediately recognizable. I used to have a job where on my second or third day they handed me a phone and a list and said "call these delinquent customers." and gave me no further instructions. After about 10 bumbling and embarassing phone calls and horrible machine messages, I finally figured out exactly what to say and how to say it in order to get people to cooperate. Now when I get nervous about making a phone call, I just plan it out in my head. I think about calling someone, then I think about what would be a good time (i.e. not too late, not during dinner, etc.) and then I plan exactly what to say. I also think out what I'll say if the machine answers so I don't botch the message. It helps that for some of the more difficult calls-- calling in sick to work, calling a friend to apoligize for standing them up-- the person usually jumps in and heads off any apology with "it's okay, don't worrry about it, take care" etc and then I feel a lot better once it's over.

Also, I use email a lot. Good luck.
posted by bonheur at 11:12 AM on December 7, 2004

I used to be TERRIFIED of using the phone. Wouldn't even call for a pizza.

I got over it when I was at a job where I HAD to call clients. No way around it. It sometimes took me 20 minutes or more to psyche myself up, and often I had to write down a script of what I would say - but a few years later I am an old pro at phone calls. Practice makes perfect.
posted by agregoli at 11:15 AM on December 7, 2004

I don't mind the phone conversation so much. It's the answering machines that terrify me.

I inevitably sound ridiculous when talking to a machine. It's just so unnatural to speak without the interaction part of a phone call. The advent of voice-mail has helped me tremendously because you can bail on the msg at anytime and /destroy the evidence/ just by hitting the * key. It's not unusual for me to take 3 attempts before I am sufficiently satisfied with my msg, and I've rid it of all the ummm ahh and nervous throat clearing.

I'm another one that can stand on a stage with no problem, but I'd rather hang up than be forced to talk to the TAPE.
posted by raedyn at 11:29 AM on December 7, 2004 [1 favorite]

> I simply can't stomache the thought of sounding stupid or uncouth on the phone.

For most people, the fear of embarrassment is on par with or worse than the embarrassment itself.

But have you noticed that when you're embarrassed, on some level you rationalize whatever you did to minimize your discomfort? Trip, and when people laugh, you think "that was mean of them". Or ask a stupid question of the Maitre'd, and when he turns his nose up, you think "wow, what a prick!!"

This is a powerful defence mechanism, and your brain uses it to balance the negative thoughts you have: "I'm so clumsy", or "I'm so stupid". And you can embrace this mechanism by deliberately invoking it in advance of a potentially embarrassing situation. Instead of thinking "I'm too scared to make the call", try "I don't care what the person on the other end thinks of me". Picture the maitre'd as the stuck-up prick that he is, and recognize that if he does chastize you, it's 'cause he can't help it.

The effect is empowering!
posted by deshead at 11:32 AM on December 7, 2004

Interesting. My mother is the same way -- she hates placing calls, the actual dialing, but she's fine to talk on the phone or answer the phone. I once got her a couple glasses of wine and started asking her questions about it, and what came out was that she was worried the person on the other end wouldn't want to talk to her. (Which is odd -- she's got lots of friends, is successful in her field, active in her church, is on several local boards, and was president of a national organization.) She still has my stepfather dial the phone for her whenever possible.

So I guess I'd say -- what's the hard part? Choosing when to call? Picking up the phone? Dialing? Dealing with the person on the other end? Figuring out what to say when it goes to an answering machine? Perhaps if you can break it down into its constituent parts, you might have an idea of what's freaking you out, and can address that through repetition and the other fine suggestions above.
posted by Vidiot at 11:33 AM on December 7, 2004

I have this exact same problem, to the point where I make my roommates order pizza for me, but for I think for me it stems from having a job years ago working phone tech support that caused a mental relationship between misery and telephones.

I have no suggestions for you, but thanks for asking this, it makes me feel better to know that I'm not the only person with this problem.
posted by cmonkey at 11:49 AM on December 7, 2004

My mom is like this, too. She will let problems go for years (literally) before picking up the phone to have a situation dealt with. I have had to call to have her furnace repaired (after being broken for 2 years), her cable bill adjusted (she was paying about 40 bucks extra a month for over a year), and to get her internet service fixed (it had been down for two weeks.)

I *used* to be like this. Then I worked in customer service. Trust me. The people on the other end of the phone don't care how stupid, nervous, or unprepared you sound. Even if you are the lucky devil who commits a faux pas so hilariously funny that your phone call is the subject of jokes for years to come, you'll never, ever know. And that usually doesn't happen. I talked to some real dumbasses, but I only remember a couple. In fact, I tend to remember the obnoxiously rude people much more vividly.

Practice will help. Make it a game. Today it might be hard for you to call Sears to find out when they close. In a month you could probably call an adult toy store and ask if they sell animal shaped dildoes.
posted by xyzzy at 12:20 PM on December 7, 2004

This won't be a popular solution, but I've mostly given up using the phone entirely, and I don't miss it at all. It's an option.
posted by rushmc at 12:30 PM on December 7, 2004

Wow. I am the exact same way, and I just thought I was weird. I'm an extremely social person, I talk on the phone contantly to friends and family, I have absolutely no aversion to public speaking (even in front of very large audiences), but picking up a phone to call someone that I don't know really and truly terrifies me, and I have no idea why.

Recently I was supposed to interview someone for a research project, and I kept making up excuses as to why I wasn't calling her because I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I was absolutely fine writing her long emails about what I was doing and what I would be talking to her about, but I just could not call her.

And what's doubly strange is that, when I'm not in school, I work for Dominos, which always involves answering dozens of phone calls a day. I'm a little nervous having to answer the calls, but on the rare occasion that I have to call a customer back, I am petrified.

I wish I had an answer for you, anonymous, but it seems like you're in good company. This is one of the few aspects of my behaviour that I really don't understand. I'll be watching this thread.
posted by deafmute at 12:37 PM on December 7, 2004

I have this problem, too, and aside from thinking I'll sound stupid, I've identified 2 related issues I have with the phone:

1) I have a stammer. Normally it isn't too bad, but it adds to the "sounding stupid" fear. (Oddly enough, I don't care much if I stutter in person.) So, I've cultivated a different phone voice that's a little slower in cadence and softer in timbre. It's probably no coincidence that it's very close to my "teacher voice."

2) I can't read people very well based on their voice alone. I rely heavily on body language and facial expressions. So, I force myself to listen better in a face-to-face conversation so I can pick up on audio clues. And while on the phone, to not obsess too much if I'm reading a person as flat and unresponsive.

Scripting and practice also helps with the above.
posted by Sangre Azul at 1:01 PM on December 7, 2004

Wallaby, jacquilynne -- me too, exactly. Right down to the anxiety over sounding stupid, even when I'm just calling for a cab, and the ability to speak in public just fine.

I don't mind talking to people I know well, it's calling strangers or businesses that freaks me out. I did have a job that required me to call places and fact-check things, and that really did help with the phone-o-phobia, but once that job was over, I reverted to not being able to call for my own pizza.
posted by mothershock at 1:24 PM on December 7, 2004

jacquilynne, mothershock, et al.- I'm also weirded out by this thread. I didn't realize that this was such an issue for so many others. I doubt I could ever eat somewhere that required reservations that I had to make (unless I could call another day- or better yet another location- to find out if they even accepted reservations and then call back another day). I've even made my sister, who actually has social anxiety disorder but is relatively okay in this area, make such calls for me.
Ironically, I have a degree in public speaking. In my coursework, we talked about how everyone has a certain degree of communication apprehension, it just manifests itself in different settings (for most people, it's speaking to large groups). I guess if this is my worst communication problem, I'm doing okay. (Easiest thing to do-> get a SO who doesn't mind such things and let them make all your calls).
posted by wallaby at 1:36 PM on December 7, 2004

(Easiest thing to do-> get a SO who doesn't mind such things and let them make all your calls).

Yes. And silently praise the Web every day for OpenTable.
posted by picopebbles at 1:42 PM on December 7, 2004

What deshead said. I have phone anxiety too. It was worse in high school, when some adult would tell me to call a store for their hours or something. It was just painful.

I still don't like talking on the phone one little bit, unless it's to my family or close friends. But I'm very social, so it's not people I fear. And I adore talking to large groups, and meeting strangers, and writing, and talking in meetings. I just get impatient and uncomfortable on the phone because I can't see the person, tell what they're like and how they might respond to my call. It's no fun trying to carry on a conversation with no visual cues.

As part of my job, I have to call strangers a lot. It helps me to remember that other people do not know I feel this way when I'm talking to them. They can't see how self-conscious I am. People at work answer the phone all day every day. You are a blip on the screen to them and they are not analyzing you at all. Talking to you on the phone is what they have to do. I usually do the "act-as-if" thing: act as if you are calm and confident, and that is how you will sound. It doesn't have to be true.

And don't worry about calling restuarants. I managed a restaurant for a while and probably took 200 calls a night. You wouldn't believe the weirdness of people! And these were the upple-middle class people. They can be very eccentric and confusing on the you are not going to stand out. If the person answering has an attitude, it's because they work in a restaurant and fully expect to deal with all manner of human rudeness -- it's not because of how you sound.

The key for me is realizing that nobody cares as much about this as I do -- that I am making it a lot bigger than it is. It's just what has to be done. But I must admit I'm delighted when I get to talk to an answering machine and the unpredictable human factor is absent. I actually wish we just had answering machines, and dispensed with the actual phone part altogether. E-mail is nice too. I'm glad to see this thread; I always felt a little bit shameful about my dread of the phone.
posted by Miko at 1:44 PM on December 7, 2004

Nicely put, Miko.
posted by mothershock at 2:00 PM on December 7, 2004

I echo what everyone else has said. I hate using the phone, but from time to time, I force myself to do phone work at work. I don't do it every day, but I do it a few times a month.
When I'm really nervous about calling strangers, I create a script and practice it a few times so I'm comfortable with what I want to say. And I keep it by the phone in case I forget my lines.

I still hate the phone but I can use it when I need to now.
posted by whatideserve at 2:28 PM on December 7, 2004

I assumed I was the only person in the world with such a seemingly irrational fear of making phone calls, despite having no other social issues (including public speaking, social functions, etc). I don't have anything to add, but the mere existence of this thread has floored me (in a good way). Thanks, anon.
posted by pardonyou? at 2:33 PM on December 7, 2004

Ditto for me about almost everything people have said...I thought I was the only one! I can make "scary" phone calls (calling a store asking for hours, ordering pizza, reservations, questions to strangers, etc.) but I really really hate the thought of it. The actual calls, when I make them, always go through's just the anxiety that comes before that sucks, and often prevents me from attempting the call.

Still, the fact that pizza and just about anything can be ordered online now and that lots of companies have web pages with all their vital info has made life a lot easier for me. :)
posted by puffin at 2:39 PM on December 7, 2004

How about when you get an answering machine? Half the time that happens I'll just hang up because I'm not ready for that situation. Practice does nothing!

1. Hang up.
2. Write out a script.
3. Call the machine back and read the script.
posted by kreinsch at 3:12 PM on December 7, 2004

Thinking about the phone call before you make it causes you to head down a path of established fears and anxieties. You look at the phone, picture yourself dialing the numbers, anticipate the opening gambit, what the other person will sound like, will there be an awkward "hello", etc. and then it hits you: I don't want to do this.

Faced with this situation, have you ever suddenly picked up the phone and called without thinking? Did you notice how easy it was? You short circuit that well-worn neural pathway and just go for the pot of gold. Sounds easy, I know.

My technique is to get the number dialed as quickly as possible. Just hammer it out and get the receiver to your ear. Since all it takes is a few seconds of contemplation before I go batty about calling a stranger, getting the number dialed and having the other side pick up saves me the anxiety. And once I'm talking, all's gravy.
posted by Succa at 3:15 PM on December 7, 2004

I know this feeling well -- I can make calls if I have to but I have never liked using the phone, especially when I don't know the person I'm calling really well. When I was a kid I used to hate answering the phone too, but I got over that, partly because my brother taught me that you don't have to answer it if you are not in the mood (in the days before answering machines he used to put the phone in the freezer so he couldn't even hear it ring), and as I could deal with it on my own terms it was no longer a problem.

A job where you have to use the phone may, or may not, make things better -- a long time ago I had to make cold calls at work and I assure you that it actually made things worse.

Giving up the phone is an option, as rushmc points out, though it leads to other practical problems. Personally I just came to an accommodation with my wife: she makes all the family's routine calls (pizza/dentists appointments/whatever) and I deal with situations where you have to do business or complain in person which I don't mind and she finds uncomfortable. Symbiosis is good!
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 3:43 PM on December 7, 2004

I don't have a fear of making phone calls, I just hate to. Return a call I missed? Um, no, let em call again. If it was that important that they could pick the phone up in the first place, they will.
posted by kamylyon at 3:57 PM on December 7, 2004

I have the fear of phone call thing -- except that I think getting an answering machine is great because I can just quickly say what needs to be said and they can get back to me if necessary (same with email). For me, the fear is more in the preparing to call than in the actual being on the phone, though I think I am pretty bad at it -- people have said that after having a phone conversation with me they think I hate them because I don't talk much. Strangely, I don't mind receiving phone calls.

quinbus: yeah, my wife makes a lot of our calls because of it, and I also don't mind doing things in person.
posted by transient at 4:09 PM on December 7, 2004

Try doing everything by fax. After a few weeks of that, you'll be begging to use the phone.
posted by krisjohn at 5:19 PM on December 7, 2004

I'm not afraid of phone calls, but I definitely don't like them - and I prefer leaving messages to having phone conversations, because my usual reason to use the phone is to get something done (make an appointment, leave some information), not to chat. I don't enjoy phone conversation very much - it's like the suburbs between the urban immediacy of meeting up and the rural contemplation of letter writing/email - worst of both worlds.
posted by mdn at 7:25 PM on December 7, 2004

I don't like *answering* the phone in the middle of the night. The night my dad died, I was dreaming about him, then the phone rang and it was my mom telling me had passed. I didn't need to answer the phone though; I just knew what it was about. Other late night calls are usually crank calls. When the phone rings and I'm sound asleep, my heart starts pounding. If you ever want to give me a heart attack, call me in the middle of the night.
posted by Doohickie at 7:57 PM on December 7, 2004

A practical suggestion that might help to control your nervousness before a call - I read somewhere that holding a cup of coffee or tea, something warm, can help to relax you as the warmth has an immediate calming effect. Breathing exercises might help too.
posted by extrabox at 9:05 PM on December 7, 2004

Make random prank phone calls. Lie. Make things up. Once you get comfortable with talking to random people, you'll be comfortable with the less-random ones.
posted by LimePi at 11:34 PM on December 7, 2004

I just want to chime in on the "amazed there are so many of us"... Anyone calling my house knows immediately if my husband is home, because the only time I answer the phone (and I hate it), is when he's not here. I never make a call except at gunpoint, and there are - let's see - about four people that I feel comfortable chatting on the phone with when they call me (three of them are my parents and my husband). I'm very confident in person, wouldn't be frightened of speaking in front of a large group, have no problem with email. Back when I was writing for publication, I had to do a lot of interviews, which was fine and I was good at it, but picking up the phone to set up the interview was just agonizing, and I lived in horror of it.

I'm just about positive I'm not worried about seeming stupid. The lack of body language is, I'm sure, a big part of it, since I rely on this a lot, but why is email a-okay with me, then? We're a strange crew, we are.
posted by taz at 5:32 AM on December 8, 2004

Coming to this thread late, but I'll also second the writing stuff down suggestion. I have a mild phobia of calling companies or strangers, and I have found it a lot easier when I have either written a script or questions. In extreme cases, I've written my opening sentences down, so I at least have something to start my phone conversation off.

The fear, for me, stems from a fear of looking or sounding stupid, which has occasionally flowed over to a phobia of starting new things for exactly the same reasons.

Two things I've found that helped:

1. Keeping a pleasant demeanor helps. Even something as banal as asking the helpdesk person "So how's your day been?" helps to keep the formal stuff flowing. Keeping the tone of the conversation to a chatty, informal manner means asking questions becomes a lot easier. Besides, it occasionally has the added bonus of salespeople being able to do that little bit extra for that nice person on the phone.

2. Making the same inquiries to several different places. After I phoned several different companies for quotes on car insurance, I realised that phone calls to other companies or strangers got a lot easier.

Scripting. I can't emphasise it enough. It's like a security blanket the person on the other end of the phone can't see.
posted by chronic sublime at 3:24 AM on December 9, 2004

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