I can't DIY Everything Forever...
November 20, 2015 4:05 PM   Subscribe

I have tremendous anxiety around situations where I have to Call In The Professionals. Unfortunately for me, I'm not particularly crafty or technical or really, skilled in any way, so these sorts of situations happen in my life a lot, and they never seem to get any easier. If anything, they're getting harder to deal with as I age. Is this you? Was it? What are your tried-and-true tips for making this less of a horrifying prospect?

Prompted both by this thread and by the fact that it just took me an entire workday to get up the nerve to call my landlord about a plumbing issue.

In most of life I'm only moderately shy and/or anxious. I get to know people pretty easily and generally move about the world without issue--I'm probably only slightly higher-strung than average in situations that most people find stressful (traffic, flight delays, arguments). But "Call In the Pros" situations are a super, super-bad, full-blown panic trigger for me and I'm finally determined to nip it in the bud.

Trouble situations include:
-Scheduling appointments (for anything; hair, dentist, doctor, vet...)
-Repairs that I cannot do myself
-Dealing with any kind of customer service/IT pro, especially if it is even a little contentious.
-Posting a question to Ask Metafilter (only joking a little.)

I can see a bunch of common threads in these situations --like people mentioned in the IT thread, it's a fear of being made to feel stupid or inconvenient, or to feel like I've wasted someone's much more valuable time. It's also a reluctance to have worst fears (root canals, massive repairs, etc.) confirmed.

But the anxiety persists even in situations where I know this is not a likely outcome. Take, for example, the immediate situation--my building super is the nicest man alive! He would never ever ever yell at me because my kitchen sink is leaking! Also, I know it's going to be an easy fix for a pro with the right tools, and not a massive upheaval at all. But I'm still like, "nooooo, anything but calling the super! Aaaaaa!"

Online scheduling tools and texting and live-chat kinds of things are wonderfully helpful for me, but they aren't commonly used by small-time landlords, handypersons, local vets, and so on. I am working to beef up my DIY skills, but realistically there will always be stuff I can't do. Plus, as a renter, I'm loath to pony up my own money and time for learning to make repairs that aren't my responsibility.

I'm not in therapy at the moment or on any sort of medication. I'm more or less open to that? But I'm more hoping that the Confident Folks Mefi might have some tips for me, either on talking myself down and keeping myself calm in the moment, or on otherwise being better prepared in advance for this stuff.

posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese to Grab Bag (44 answers total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
I can't help you with the bit about having your worst root-canal fears confirmed because that one bedevils me too, but this part:

Plus, as a renter, I'm loath to pony up my own money and time for learning to make repairs that aren't my responsibility.

Do you not realize that the whole reason such problems aren't your responsibility is that you, by paying your rent, have already paid someone else to deal with them?
posted by jon1270 at 4:19 PM on November 20, 2015 [10 favorites]

Can you afford an on-demand personal assistant, someone you could build a relationship with and who would do all the items listed above for you? There are also online services that are entirely email and IM-based. Consider that a couple of hours a week would cost you less than an average trip to the grocery store. How much is your sanity worth?
posted by halogen at 4:20 PM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I think you have to reframe the situation and accept that repairs and routine maintenance are just part of the cost of doing / having whatever. There is nothing exceptional or particular to you about it- out there in the world, all of us have things that need fixing every day. Even though it can feel random and disturbing, it's really just a feature of life. All those people you'd be calling for help, pretty much want to be called- they'd have nothing to do if you didn't. There's very little you could do to shock or upset them, and ultimately they'd be jobless and you'd have no free time if you did it all yourself!
It's great to be reasonably handy with a drill and a paintbrush, but it's also okay to treasure your free time enough to hire out to the extent that you can afford. It's a trade off and only you can decide if it's worth it to you. Hiring people to do things for you is a luxury, and actually can feel really good when you look at it as a happy choice!

Source: Someone who paid a few grand for repairs, renovations and painting on my rental that I absolutely LOVE.
posted by TenaciousB at 4:21 PM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Write out a script before you call them and have all the information you think you might need in front of you before you call.
posted by ilovewinter at 4:27 PM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Do you not realize that the whole reason such problems aren't your responsibility is that you, by paying your rent, have already paid someone else to deal with them?

(Sorry if that was unclear--I do realize this, which is why I am reluctant to pay for it essentially twice over by purchasing the tools and materials and then doing it myself...)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 4:31 PM on November 20, 2015

This is a HUGE thing for me (I'll be watching this thread), but I'll say that my therapist recommended what ilovewinter suggests and when I remember to do it, having a script helps a lot! If nothing else, it keeps me focused on what I really need to ask for, if/when I get flustered and forget.
posted by epersonae at 4:38 PM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm exactly the same way! I spent a little time with a therapist working on this a few years ago then got distracted by other problems, but it's still a thing.

CBT is probably the best treatment, I should really do that someday as it is a big quality of life issue. Especially doctor/etc appointments which I have no issue with and would happily go to if someone else made an appointment for me... (why do so few doctors have online scheduling?).

And yeah --- even though I intellectually understand that there is no reason I shouldn't call or do these things, my anxiety level goes up to 11.
posted by thefoxgod at 4:39 PM on November 20, 2015

I do realize this, which is why I am reluctant to pay for it essentially twice over by purchasing the tools and materials and then doing it myself...

Think of it this way: speaking as a LL, I absolutely do not want you doing your own repairs (beyond "reattach this screwed-in thing" or "change this light bulb"). If you have a responsible LL, they'll be delighted that you're contacting the right person!

I also dislike these situations, so I've reframed them in terms of benefits to other people. For example. The previous owner of my house was a DIY-er...who did everything wrong. This has made me Very Sad and Very Out of Pocket on multiple occasions ("what do you mean this bathtub was incorrectly installed?!"). So I figure that calling in my trusted contractor of choice, even if it makes me look incompetent to fix things on my own (which I, um, kind of am), is actually a favor to the next owner of this house, as well as the contractor. Taking the cats to the vet for the umpteenth time makes the vet happy, at least--more cash in the till. Etc.
posted by thomas j wise at 4:53 PM on November 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm a 34 year old grown-ass man and I absolutely get anxiety about this stuff too.

Couple things that help me:

- Do a small amount of google homework first, but go in with an "aw shucks" attitude. Know just enough so that your bullshit detector will go off, but not enough that it's a waste of time paying someone else to do it. Trust but verify etc. etc.

- Apologize constantly, especially to diffuse tension. "So sorry, walk me through this again it's not clicking for me yet..."

- Having a broad understanding that there are complex systems designed to exploit people that have little free time or inclination to learn really really basic tasks. Changing the oil on a car, for instance. Or basically everything an IT help desk does. Unless it's a matter of curiosity for you, just let it go and write a check. Life's too short.
posted by misterdaniel at 4:53 PM on November 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

What specifically are you anxious about? Making a phone call? Having strangers in your home? Having to assert yourself? Failing to achieve your goal?
posted by mikek at 4:55 PM on November 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

This doesn't work for all your cases, but I've had success in some similar instances by mentally reframing it as offering to give someone money in exchange for their services, and reminding myself that people want to make money, and and thus are eager to exchange their services for my money, and therefore I can't possibly be intruding even if I'm a little discombobulated or otherwise clueless.
posted by anne_severson at 4:57 PM on November 20, 2015 [11 favorites]

I hate making these kinds of phone calls too. I find that the longer I put it off, the more in my head I am about it and the harder it gets. If I can just make the call right away, without overthinking it, it's doesn't become as big of a deal.
posted by rozee at 5:00 PM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

This is a mild form of public speaking anxiety. So I would recommend Toastmasters! Seriously, we think that speaking is the same as talking, so we're embarrassed when we feel that we have difficulty in formal speaking situations. The good news: this is perfectly natural and also easy to fix. The underlying fear is of being judged by who you're talking to. Toastmasters' training allows you to put this fear of judgment into its proper place. The other bonuses of TM are that it'll put rocket boosters on your everyday confidence; its a pile of fun when you get into it and finally you'll meet lots of good people. You do need to choose a Club that you feel comfortable with, but if you're in a major urban area, you'l likely have dozens to choose from. (I'm a multi-year Toastmasters veteran and it was a life-changer for me.)
posted by storybored at 5:05 PM on November 20, 2015

I also feel this way...what helps me is reminding myself that my request is not the only one that the plumber ... mechanic...vet...customer service agent...WHOEVER...is going to get that day. I remind myself that handling these requests is their job. I remind myself that I wouldn't judge someone else for making my request, so I shouldn't assume that I will be judged. I also do sometimes write a script for myself-- and often find that I might use it for the first 1-2 sentences, but then I usually find I don't need it. And invariably I find that the reality of actually doing what needs to be done is nowhere near the panicky apprehension I feel before I do it.
Slowly, this kind of thing has gotten much easier for me. Good luck to you!
posted by bookmammal at 5:08 PM on November 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

anne_severson beat me to it. Presumably you work for a living so in order to eat, put a roof over your head, clothe yourself, etc., you need for your employer to have work for you to do. Which means customers need to pay them for services.

All of these service professionals are in the same boat. They need to earn money to eat, put a roof over their heads, clothe themselves and their families, etc. If customers never used their services, they would get laid off (or never even get hired), not be able to earn a living.

You need something done. They need to earn a living. You are helping each other out. If you DIYed everything, they'd be out of a job. They couldn't buy your work product from your company and then you'd be out of job. The whole thing would snowball and the economy would collapse. AND IT WOULD BE YOUR FAULT.

I'm kidding of course but seriously, you are spending money so other people can make a living and they are doing the same for you. Demand for their services means a little more job security. Professionals want you to call them. Good luck!
posted by Beti at 5:10 PM on November 20, 2015 [2 favorites]

Scripts, building ongoing relationships with the same tradespeople for familiarity (getting recommendations for them beforehand can help, too), and instituting some minor reward system for yourself for when you complete these dreaded (and I dread them, too) tasks.
posted by Iris Gambol at 5:13 PM on November 20, 2015

I just tell myself I'm "stimulating the economy". Even more, I get to stick to my strengths, of which "writing a check" is a big one. Done and done.
As Jeff Goldblum said in The Big Chill, "rationalizations are more important than sex. Have you ever gone a week without a rationalization?"
posted by DrGail at 5:19 PM on November 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

I have this challenge too. That hump--"it's a fear of being made to feel stupid or inconvenient, or to feel like I've wasted someone's much more valuable time. It's also a reluctance to have worst fears (root canals, massive repairs, etc.) confirmed"--feels so BIG and overwhelming. Making that call serves as proof that I cannot do something, and competence-building has been a massive part of my becoming an adult. So I try to do several things. I try to remember that:

* Some things, like cars, are simply beyond my pay-grade. People go to school and do apprenticeships to learn this stuff, and I have not, and objects are more complicated than they used to be! Shame is basically a distraction from the fact that *this is not my skill set.* I have other skills! Good ones! Just not this particular set.

* Lots of people call experts all the time, and very few, if any, of those callers die of shame. This is a possible outcome: to have a working toilet *and* live to see another day.

* I am more than my shame or my skills. Any question that a professional asks me should be considered neutral, kind of like "Do you want ketchup on that?" They are here to fix things. Not to judge me.

* I use YouTube and fix-it sites like a fiend so that when I call, I can describe the problem more accurately. This makes me feel less inadequate in the face of training I don't have.

* That means I can be more specific in directing their attention to an aspect of the problem**, which also makes me feel better, even if in practice they test for the thing I have already identified.

** Last time, the washer repair guy BROUGHT THE PART I ASKED FOR, after several go-rounds with him and other appliances. Previously, it was the toilet, which had blown a seal. Told him so on the phone. It was all cleaned up by the time he arrived. He asked me how I knew it was the seal, and I replied that MAYBE IT WAS THE GALLONS OF WATER that had FALLEN OUT OF THE BASE OF THE TOILET. He asked how I could be sure, and I said that I THOUGHT it had to do with the wet floor and the bone-dry seat. He doesn't give me a hard time anymore.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:22 PM on November 20, 2015 [4 favorites]

Imagine the absolute worst case scenario. Imagine the absolute best case scenario. Remind yourself that neither of these will occur.

This applies to all of the situations that you listed.
posted by unknowncommand at 5:28 PM on November 20, 2015

Sometimes you just have to suck it up and do it. I really hate having to trust other people to help me (especially if they kinda screw you over or decide not to do the job--don't get me started), but there's really no other option.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:28 PM on November 20, 2015

I'm not at all an anxious person (and I genuinely like public speaking), but I get avoidant about phone calls to people I don't know. There's something overwhelming about the combination of dealing with strangers and making lots of tiny logistical decisions.

I can usually manage one or two really demanding tasks first thing in the morning, so I schedule this kind of phone call for that time of day, at the rate of one per day, and then feel proud of myself for doing hard things.
posted by yarntheory at 5:43 PM on November 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

Oh, man. This is hard for me too.

Making pro and con lists has helped me a lot. Even when the thing you want fixed is so obvious and necessary, the act of writing it out—and writing in the next column the fears that are getting in the way of attending to it, and seeing them next to each other—makes it easier for me to say, “Oh right, I need to call the [dentist / exterminator / accountant / plumber / expert in whatever thing I’m having trouble asking for help with] like right now.” And then it’s easier to call them too. (Nthing the usefulness of scripts here as well.)

Another thing that’s helped: putting myself in the expert’s shoes. Understanding and even enjoying how much the expert (the dentist, say), loves to be called on to fix the thing, and to be the expert in the room, and to tell me how I’ve been doing it wrong. It’s like asking a New Yorker for directions. They love to give directions! It makes their day! The dentist gets to be the hero, she goes home at the end of the day with a story about how she fixed something & helped someone—a story in which I am the damsel who needed saving or the lout who needed to be told what dental floss. I, however, don’t have to listen to that story—I just go home with less pain in my mouth, and some serious pride in having taken care of myself despite pretty hardwired anxiety.
posted by miles per flower at 7:16 PM on November 20, 2015

At least to address the rental repairs part of it - you're renting. You're paying not only for the use of the property but for everything to work. Don't even try to figure it out. Faucet leaks? Call the super. Gutter falling down? Call the super. Lock jammed? Call the super. Dishwasher doing a death gurgle? You guessed it... That's what they're there for, that's what you pay for, and unless they're terrible they'd much rather deal with it than deal with the aftermath of your attempt to DIY.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:45 PM on November 20, 2015

Dyed in the wool do it yourself-er here, and also a computer tech support pro.

Be upfront with the person you're asking for help from. If they know you're ambivalent about asking for help, or even feeling guilty for not being able to do it yourself, most professional helpers will bend over backwards not only to solve your problem, but also to put you at ease and assist you in giving them the information they need.

I make it my business to know at least something about almost everything, but most things even the ones that seem simple are more complex when you get down to the nitty-gritty. For example, with plumbing, there is the annoying problem of water hammer, which is the banging noises in some plumbing systems. Determining the causes and remedies for this phenomenon depends upon a fairly sophisticated knowledge and management of the various physical factors. Not understanding these things does not reflect badly on you unless you're actually a plumber. Remembering this can help you cope with the emotional dimensions of seeking help.

While you should not feel obliged to be an expert, a bit of googling around may help give you an outline of the problem and give you the confidence you need.
posted by maniabug at 8:00 PM on November 20, 2015

Seconding miles per flower's approach above; it's worked for me in similar situations. I put myself in the place of the person you are calling, and imagine how I would want to put the customer at ease and would do anything possible to make the interaction enjoyable. Good luck!
posted by sapere aude at 8:59 PM on November 20, 2015

Best answer: What is your family background? I didn't grow up poor, but we certainly weren't rich and there was a definite sense that certain things - braces on your teeth, plumbing done by actual plumbers - was Not For Us. Even though I can now afford to get certain things done I still hear those blue collar voices in my head. Am I really such a dumbass that I can't change my own oil? And why stir up trouble by bringing in a professional? They'll just find something wrong. Part of me expected to be berated by the Home Depot guys when I got the carpet runner on my stairs replaced, since any fool with a staple gun could put it in. It took me a while to realize that there is a whole world of people out there for whom this is a non issue, hiring a pro is just like getting a haircut or a manicure. It's just a service you pay for and is no big deal.
posted by selfmedicating at 9:17 PM on November 20, 2015 [5 favorites]

For some people this can be from anxiety derived from authority figures. Even though it is a service you are paying for, so ultimately you are in charge, you are still seeing these experts as having authority over you. Sometimes this is just totally irrational, sometimes it isn't, but that doesn't mean your anxiety isn't real.

So one thing you can do is consciously think about authority figures in your life who DON'T make you anxious. Has there ever been anyone like that for you? An amazing teacher, or a boss you really liked, or if you're lucky, a parent or other family member. When you start getting stress from a situation where you need to call in a pro, take a few minutes to focus on memories you have of good, productive interactions with authority figures. Think about how it made you feel to have your issue resolved and your word trusted and that person's expertise shared with you. That will sort of prime your interaction with the next professional to be a positive one, and help you form more positive associations with similar situations so successive occurrences don't build up in stress for you as much. It sounds kind of woo, but combined with some of the other techniques in this thread, really can help.

I really like the suggestion of script making, too. It's a common thing to help people with social anxiety and is just a plain good idea. If the term "script" bothers you, think of it like a list. Make a list of questions you have, and also ask things like "if I have further questions, what is the best way to ask them?" Make a list of points you want to make sure you don't forget. Think of it like writing a shopping list. Being able to outsource bits of your memory like this really helps people feel more comfortable when dealing with something stressful since they trust their past self's lists, written when they weren't as stressed.

For example, when I recently went to see a doctor for the first time in way way way too long, I wrote down a huge list of all my ailments, big and small. The doctor addressed my primary concern, but then was SO PLEASED that I had a list of everything else. She was really excited that I had thought that far ahead, and that I had also included things like family medical history. She was able to really help me out with advice for a bunch of other little things without more appointments, and give me better referrals because of my family history. I know that if I hadn't written out my script of questions and issues, I would have had a much worse experience. Instead of feeling really well served by this professional, I would have been dubious and annoyed and still have a bunch of little problems to handle and referrals that weren't as precise. I was still really anxious and my blood pressure was through the roof, but I didn't need to worry about forgetting anything or making things up to fill in blanks.
posted by Mizu at 9:57 PM on November 20, 2015 [3 favorites]

I can totally relate to what you describe - I LOVE that restaurants have online ordering now and I don't have to call it in. But ever since I bought a house, I can't really afford to be like this, so one thing I'm trying is to think about how glad I will be when I finally make the call/have it done. I needed a bathroom fan and dining room light installed in my house and I procrastinated like crazy about calling someone to install them. But when I finally did, and sat back saw how great the lights looked and functioned, I was like, "Silly, why didn't you call sooner?" So I try to remember that feeling and just make the damn call and get it over with - the sooner I call, the sooner I can stop thinking/worrying about it.
I really hate that I do this, so I'll be watching this thread. I hope you find something that helps you.
posted by NoraCharles at 9:57 PM on November 20, 2015

Lots of people do this. I'm better than I used to be but if I'm not paying attention, it still creeps up on me. I remember being at a friends house, years ago, and seeing her father pacing back and forth in front of the phone. She said, he's so funny, he always has to work him self up before he makes a phone call, and I thought, oh my god, you mean I won't grow out of that? Here is what I've learned... Call while it's still a problem and before it becomes a PROBLEM!!!
Plumbers are expensive so I replaced my own kitchen faucet. Three months later the line came apart and flooded the basement when I was away for the weekend.
My tenant says, yeah, it was making a noise but I didn't want to bother you. Now a waterline has burst and it"s spraying water, it's Saturday night and the boiler needs to be replaced.
I put off going to the dentist until I woke up with the whole side of my face aching. Turns out I had lost a filling, decay started up again, it got infected and now I needed a root canal. But wait, part way through the root canal, with a specialist because my regular dentist doesn't do them anymore, she decides there isn't enough tooth left for an effective procedure and sends me to yet another specialist to get the tooth pulled because she only does root canals. Oh, and by the way, they all need to take their own x-rays because, well I don't remember exactly, I was on antibiotics and pain killers and I just wanted my tooth fixed. Anyway, now I have a little chalkboard hanging on my wall that just says, in very nice script, Call Before It Gets Worse.
posted by BoscosMom at 10:03 PM on November 20, 2015

And Prozac, I think Prozac really helped with all of my social anxieties including this one. May be worth a looking into.
posted by BoscosMom at 10:14 PM on November 20, 2015

I just bribe myself to get through this kind of thing. Although it never turns out to be as unpleasant as I imagine. But having something pleasant to look forward to helps, even if it's artificial. And cutting myself a break for not jumping on something immediately. There's some curtains about to fall out of my ceiling and I have not gotten around to calling a handyman yet and that's okay. It makes everything a lot lower stakes. I think sometimes we're pushed to be A+ superhumans doing it all and having it all that everything seems way more important than it really is. As long as your house isn't falling down around you whether you called the handyman today or yesterday or Monday is probably fine.
posted by bleep at 10:22 PM on November 20, 2015

I usually ask myself which has worse consequences, calling or not calling. The answer is always not calling if you think two or three steps ahead.

I also found that the more I do it, the easier it is.
posted by AugustWest at 10:31 PM on November 20, 2015

I'm thirty years old and about two years ago I had an unsettling, life-changing realization:

Not doing The Thing I Need To Do is worse than doing it.

And if not doing it is better than The Thing, then it's probably not a need-to-do, it's a should-do that isn't a priority for me (or I'm depressed, so that gets tricky).
posted by samthemander at 10:59 PM on November 20, 2015 [1 favorite]

There was a while when I was doing Health Month. It is a website designed to gamify adding good habits to your life. You choose a set of habits and check in daily on whether you've done them or not. I forget who it was who suggested that one of those habits be "doing something you don't like doing that needs to be done" but it was a really good suggestion for me. It forced me to make those damn phone calls, as well as organize paperwork and a few other things.

It also helped me to floss my teeth more regularly and get more exercise.

When you set it up, you choose a reward for "winning" and a punishment for "losing" and you can choose something nice like going out for a nice dinner and something vaguely bad like making push-ups part of your next month's tasks.

If you like the social aspect of things, there's a metafilter team on there somewhere.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:48 AM on November 21, 2015

Best answer: I just bribe myself to get through this kind of thing. Although it never turns out to be as unpleasant as I imagine.

This is me! I have random People I Can Not Call and people I can. I'm not sure what makes the difference honestly. I have no problem making a doctor's appointment (for example) but trouble making a specialist appointment. Can call to get my car repaired but not to get a cleaning service. It's weird and irrational. I have a few coping mechanisms

1. Try to assemble a posse of service people I like and trust (including their phone people, if that is possible) so that the likely Bad Outcome I am dreading (seriously, what is going to happen, I have no idea) is even less likely

2. Bribery. As bleep said.

3. Break the task into smaller tasks. Look up the number. Write it down. Put it on a list to deal with next time I am dealing with projects. There is no reason this should be useful but for some reason it is.

4. Find service people I can text which is also better for me. In a similar fashion: find walk-in places (like garage, like haircuts)

5. Make the positive outcome different from what you think. So you're not calling to get a haircut, you're calling to practice making a phone call and to get through the phone call without hyperventilating. Getting a haircut is second on the list. Once I made my own peace of mind part of the success factor, I paid more attention to how to make it better on myself (call when you have time, call when you are not already upset, call when it's not a 'you should have called a week ago' emergency)

6. Scenario planning. In most worst case situations, you can hang up, never talk to that person again and lose their number. In some (like the super) you have to sort of get along with them or move. So try to reframe your narrative with them. This may mean finding a way to show compassion for whatever is shaping their attitude. It may mean reenvisioning yourself as a superhero who can deflect the super's every obstacle until you get your thing fixed. It may mean deciding you will throw yourself on the mercy of the super and just roll over and be like "Yep, I am terrible, but I still need this sink fixed...." Or in your case where the super is nice, basically use this "Hey I like the super, I will call him, he can fix my sink, this will be a good interaction...." to pump yourself up beforehand

7. Know your rights. Know what is the super's job and what is not and be calm and confident about this.

And yeah therapy and (occasional) medication have helped me in the past. Might not be a thing you need or want but it's useful if the generalized issue is that you have got anxieties that are affecting your life that are causing you trouble.

Best of luck.
posted by jessamyn at 9:29 AM on November 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you do write a script for yourself, add in this phrase, which I overheard a cubicle neighbor use when she called her bank one day:

"Excuse me, but you just went through that explanation really fast, and I'm not sure I got it all. THIS IS IMPORTANT TO ME. Could you please explain it again, a little slower?".

Sounds obvious, right? I was blown away. I thought, "hey, yeah. If it's something I'm paying for, I have the right to demand to understand what's happening. I shouldn't allow myself to be intimidated into hanging up the phone and not bothering this person anymore." So now when I go to call someone I try to remind myself "This is important to me".
posted by vignettist at 1:06 PM on November 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

As far as I can tell, basically everyone under 50 hates making phone calls at least a little it. It seems to me like a bit of a generational malady, obviously worse for some than for others.

My recommendation is to write a script and push yourself to make the call at a specific time. Don't wait until you feel comfortable (this seems like an unrealistic expectation) , and don't let it grow and grow to become unbearable. Like do it early in the day and then spend the rest of the day complimenting yourself about how you got over that hurdle. Maybe there's a reward in it for you. If you do it 10 times, it will become easier.
posted by vunder at 1:44 PM on November 21, 2015

One thing to keep in mind too is that while you of course have to do this sometimes, a LOT of people hate getting calls as much as you hate making them. Everyone under 50 hates the phone and that includes a lot of people whose job it is to answer phones. My dentist takes appointments by email, my haircut place has online scheduling. Most of the contractors I've hired to work on my house in the last few years are perfectly happy to get texts or emails. It's nice for them because if they're on a roof or whatever, they can let it go until they're in a position to deal with it. Your building super, for instance, may well be delighted to get texts from you instead of calls. Why not ask?

I worked in tech support for awhile and I looooved getting email cases. You can research the issue without feeling the person on the other end getting more and more impatient. Your preference is not at all unusual and these days there are lots of ways to avoid talking on the phone if that's what you want.
posted by town of cats at 1:51 PM on November 21, 2015

Oh and yeah I work in a crowded office so I need to reserve a phone room if I want to make calls during business hours. Having "phone calls" on my calendar for half an hour makes me feel like I've got to just get it done. It helps to schedule it, a lot.
posted by town of cats at 1:53 PM on November 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had to stop and make sure I didn't create another account and write this Ask in my sleep. We're anxiety twinsies! That's exciting!

I think MonkeyToes' answer is the best of the bunch. You should read it a lot. Then go make you a script and practice it. A LOT. I have more discussions with my teddy bear than I'd really care to admit. Knowing what you're going to say is great, but already having said it is better.

If your brain is still in your way after that, hit Amazon and get yourself a copy of Mind Over Mood. This is one you totally can DIY. It's CBT, and has helped me incredibly already. (I'm only up to chapter 5! Imagine how awesome I'll be doing by the end of the book!) My therapist has been working me through it, and it's made a huge, huge difference. Just two weeks ago, I was able to call and schedule 4 doctor appointments. (Full disclosure, I had to have my best friend call and reschedule 5 last week. Baby steps.)

My anxiety has, in the past, had me spending hours at a time curled up in a little ball in the corner of my closet because it was safe there. This one is a total "If I can do this, you can, too!!!" situation. You can do this. Promise.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 3:43 PM on November 21, 2015

For appointments you schedule on a regular basis, you might find it helpful to schedule your next appointment while you are already at the (doctor's) office.
posted by oceano at 6:00 PM on November 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Add me to the list of people who haaaate making phone calls and get super avoidant about them. When I was able to afford it, I used to tell friends, "I will pay for the pizza if you will make the call for it."
A few things help me. My antidepressants make me less avoidant. Thinking tenderly and protectively about future-Edna, and how much she has to deal with, and how she really needs someone (me) to help her out, helps a surprising amount (it's always easier for me to do things for others than for myself!).
The best is if you have a loved one who knows how hard this stuff is for you. If they can say, "Hey, do you want to call that place now?" and hang out with you while you do it (and applaud your good adult-ing afterward--praise always helps) it's easier. Do you have any friends who have similar irrational difficulties you could team up with for mutual support?
posted by Edna Million at 9:17 AM on November 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thinking tenderly and protectively about future-Edna, and how much she has to deal with, and how she really needs someone (me) to help her out, helps a surprising amount (it's always easier for me to do things for others than for myself!).

Seconded. This is a terrific framing. Thanks, Edna Million.
posted by MonkeyToes at 9:30 AM on November 22, 2015

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! I will definitely be trying some CBT hacks and prewritten scripts, which I've done in the past but have let slide (because it's hard to plan when you're avoiding so hard).

But oh wow, that comment about growing up poor hit waaaaaaaaay home, omg. We were quite poor when I was a kid, but my dad was from a well-off background, so there was always this weird kind of judgment around our failures to do things middle-classly. A lot of, "if you/your mother would just put in the effort" kind of comments that suggested that we could totally have a spotless house, straight teeth, and glossy hair, but we were just too inept or naturally slovenly. When our water heater broke or our car died or whatever it was just treated as another embarrassing thing we did.

So now when my hair and teeth and house need help I entirely, on some level, feel it's like a big sign telling the world NOPE SHE'S STILL POOR LOOK HOW SHE CAN'T EVEN HUMAN CORRECTLY. They're gonna see how I live and take away my cat!

So yeah, that...that's probably something to unpack in some therapy...
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:02 AM on November 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

« Older Interview filter: how to negotiate questions about...   |   Blamed for the death of someone I didn't even know... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.