26 October 2016Last updated

Features | People

Ask the expert: I’m terrified of speaking on the phone

This is becoming an increasingly common problem

Russell Hemmings.
18 Mar 2016 | 12:00 am

I’m a 24-year-old woman and I’m really scared of speaking to people on the phone. I can talk face to face, but I now have a new job, which includes making phone calls to clients. I’ve started to fear going to work and I put off making the calls with all sorts of excuses. How can I end this situation, before my boss becomes involved?

This is becoming an increasingly common problem. We tend to think of ourselves as completely attached to our phones. For many of us, the thought of losing our phone is nothing short of a personal disaster. Now we have social media, email and text we are actually using the phone parts of our phones far less frequently than, say, 20 years ago.

So, it stands to reason that talking on the phone has now fallen out of favour, and people feel less and less comfortable with the thought of it. For young ones like you, it can feel like a phone call puts you on the spot verbally and socially, causing your anxiety levels to rise at the thought of having to dial a number. This is because talking on the phone doesn’t give you the opportunity to self-edit in the way written communication does. You worry about making mistakes, then you start to get tongue-tied and self-conscious and end up confirming your worst fears; that you’re not very good at talking on the phone.

In a sense, this is like any other phobia, developing from an initial feeling of fear. It might be that you felt foolish talking on the phone at some point. Your brain then made a subconscious connection between that feeling and using the phone, and a phobia is formed.

But the good news is that this pattern can be broken. You might consider getting professional help as therapy is very beneficial where phobias are concerned. However, there are a number of things you can do to re-engage with the phone.

Firstly, try making as many calls as you can at the start of a day. This way your anxiety levels won’t build too much and the idea won’t loom over you. Then, when it comes to the actual call, kick things off with a question. You can plan this in advance – it always comes across as more attentive and refocuses your own anxiety. Finally, don’t overplan. 
I usually say the opposite because I’m all for planning ahead, but in this case, I think minimal planning will be beneficial. The more you overthink something, the more likely you are to trigger those anxious feelings you want to steer clear of. Also, I always say that a smile on your face is a smile in your voice.

With a phone call, especially when it comes to business, keeping things short is always good. Think clearly and don’t worry if you make the odd mistake. That’s conversation. 
It’s not meant to be perfect!

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Russell Hemmings.

Russell Hemmings

Life coach, and clinical and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist. More info: / 04 4273627 / 055 2867275.