Millions of people dread using the phone. Full blown “telephonophobia” is characterized by feelings of panic, terror and anxiety attacks when faced with the prospect of talking on the phone. A lesser form of this, telephone apprehension, can still be nerve-wracking. The bad news is that you can’t cut out your dealings with the telephone entirely. The good news is that you can manage your anxiety and mitigate the effects of phone anxiety. Here are six tips for reining in your phone panic:
Examine Why You’re Afraid
Why are you really afraid of the phone? Is it part of a larger generalized anxiety disorder? Is it social anxiety – are you afraid of upsetting or being upset by the person on the other end of the line? Is it fear of miscommunicating? Is the sudden, unexpected and jarring sound of the ringer a trigger for your anxiety? Figure out what really bothers you about the phone and take steps to mitigate it, either alone or with your mental health care professional. Knowing exactly why you’re afraid can help you more easily manage your anxiety.
You Control Your Interactions
Reminding yourself that you are in complete control of your telephone interactions is a useful way to help quell phone anxiety. In today’s world where phones are ever-present and multi-functional, it can be hard to remember that phones are a tool for communication and nothing more. Because the phone is a tool, it only gets used when you want or need to use it.
You should be no more afraid of your phone than you are of your screwdriver. You can hang up at any time, call back at another time, silence the ringer if you don’t feel like answering calls or simply turn your phone off altogether. Voicemail and answering machines are also useful tools: if you don’t think you can face the phone at any given point, let the call go to voicemail and return it when you’ve gathered your willpower.
Practice What You’re Going to Say Before a Call
If your telephonophobia stems from the fear that you’re going to say the wrong thing, freeze up or be unable to communicate clearly and effectively, practice what you’re going to say before you pick up the phone. Grab a pen and paper and jot down some notes or talking points. Keep these notes in front of you when you’re speaking.
If you’re really worried, you can write out an entire script. Try to anticipate questions and how you’ll answer them. Practice saying the words out loud or in your head to give yourself more confidence in your phone interactions.
Make Yourself Comfortable
Stress takes a toll on you and avoiding the phone isn’t an option, so take control of the things you can. When you must speak on the telephone, sit in a place where you feel comfortable and at ease. Surround yourself with positive cues, like your favorite picture or object. Grab a glass of your favorite tea to calm your nerves and sip on while you speak. Wear comfortable clothes and light some incense or a candle or open a bottle of your favorite scented oil to soothe your nerves.
Increase Your Phone Use
One of the best ways to banish phone anxiety (or at least lessen it) is to face that fear head on as often as you can tolerate. Make more phone calls. If you have the option of phoning in an order for pizza or booking an appointment instead of entering the information online, do that. Call people you love regularly and engage in pleasant, uplifting conversations to increase your telephone confidence. The more successful conversations you complete, the more in control of your fear you’ll become.
Fake It ‘Til You Make It
Your emotions show through your voice. If you’re scared, nervous or anxious about talking on the phone, it will be apparent in your voice and the person on the other end of the line will pick up on it. It can set the tone – usually negative – for the interaction. If you can’t be calm, cool and confident on the phone, fake it.
Put on a smile, even a fake one: the act of smiling changes the way your voice sounds. Pause when you lose your train of thought instead of relying on filler words like “um,” “uh” and “like”. Enunciate clearly. Speak slowly and if you feel yourself speeding up, slow it down. Remember, you’re in control.
Look at the Big Picture
When you feel yourself getting anxious about the phone, look at the big picture. Your anxiety has probably already given you a million ideas about the worst possible scenario that could come of poor phone interactions. But in the long run, does it really matter if the pharmacist doesn’t like the way you talk on the phone?
One bad phone call or even multiple bad phone calls, are not the end of the world. Everyone fails from time to time, even those without phone anxiety. Even if the phone call is important, say for a job interview, what matters is that you’re getting better at controlling your anxiety, facing your fears and working on the skills you need.
The Bottom Line
While it’s not practical to avoid the phone entirely, there are ways to manage your anxiety or apprehension. Taking the steps toward self-care and self-soothing while talking on the phone can help you relax and mentally preparing yourself before and after phone interactions can help.
The more you face your fear of the phone, the easier it becomes to make and receive calls. Don’t give up – if you find your anxiety escalating, speak to your mental health care provider.