Rants and Trumpets

Why do phone calls give us anxiety?

Do not disturb, silence mode, turned off notifications, airplane mode all these are my everyday go-to. I dread phone calls, whenever my phone rings I pray it is one of the only five people I literally constantly talk to. And if it is my turn to make a call, I go heights to avoid it but some calls are inevitable and need to happen.

In today’s world of texting, emails and tweets, the voice function on our phones might be one of the least important and used. For some people, it is no big deal to pick up the phone and make a call, but for others even receiving one feels like an extreme sport. You rehearse the conversation to be held, you dial with shaky hands, you get a panicky feeling in your chest when you hear a ring on the other end. To some, the fear might be with some specific calls due to their importance or impact in your life but to the others, it is just the general idea of the call or even using your phone.

But why do these feelings even arise in the first place?

  • You do not know what the other person is thinking
    Body language, gesture, facial expressions play a great role to supplement our words during face to face conversation. During a phone call, all these cues are lost, it is more difficult to read your interlocutor and the conversation becomes more of a guessing game with no way of really understanding whether you’ve guessed right. 
  • Time constraints
    To many of us, phone calls seem scarier than texting? After all, a typed message is also lacking those non-verbal cues. With written communication, at least, you have time on your side: time to gather your thoughts, time to edit, time to reconsider before hitting send. The phone gives you no such luxuries, meaning that until you hang up, you’re thinking on your feet and that every word is more of a gamble. Pauses feel heavier, too; in person, you can see when someone is thinking, or when they’re distracted. But over the phone, especially for the anxiety-prone, every silence can be a sign that things are going awry.
  • Fear of receiving upsetting news
    Since I moved for college I developed this weird attachment to my phone. It is the only way to connect with my loved ones but also I do not like them calling me randomly, maybe because of past experiences I attach to those random calls. Calls are important; you get to catch up with people and stay informed about their lives. But if I cannot predict the reason for the call, either my heart will skip a beat or I will feel like it is an infringement on my personal space. It is not always easy to reconnect easily for everyone.
  • Just simple lack of practice
    Most of us young people, we have mastered the art of texting but lack those communication skills when it comes to calls. Talking face-to-face may be intuitive, but talking on the phone requires an understanding of a subtler etiquette: breaking a phone call down into its parts, and you have to know how to gracefully segue from the greeting into the next phase, when to pause, when to jump in, how to wind things down. It’s something that takes practice.

So how do you get over it?

There a few techniques on how to cope, check out for number 3 it is my personal favourite.

  1. Smile
    Before making and receiving calls, put a smile on your face. I know this may sound silly, but it helps you to relax and conveys a sense of pleasantness to the person you’re speaking with.
  2. Prepare
    Doing a bit of preparation before making a call, does help and you do not feel caught off guard and are more confident but always remember not to overdo it. A few notes taking using postcards comes in handy.
  3. Warm-up and practise making calls
    As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, I have exactly 5 people whom I am always comfortable talking to. With the lockdown and everything moving virtual the number of calls we make has increased and became more inevitable. Every time I had to make a call I would ca start by calling one of these people and engage in a short pleasant conversation just to take the pressure off and visualize success in a call.
  4. Do not overthink it
    This one is easier said than done. But if someone says “no” or turns down a request, realize that it could be for many reasons that have nothing to do with you. Try not to read too much into someone else’s actions.

Phone anxiety is difficult but can be overcome. One may find it helpful to explain the nature of the phobia to friends so that a failure to respond to messages and calls is not misinterpreted as rudeness or an unwillingness to communicate. Your fear of making and receiving phone calls may extend into other areas of your life and that you have fears of social interaction in general, it might be helpful to consult a mental health professional.

11 thoughts on “Why do phone calls give us anxiety?”

  1. 😊this piece made me appreciate how seemingly small issues are taken into account by others

    I wish I had such wisdom to help me get over phone call anxiety.

    I’ll be sure to keep this knowledge in mind for those tough times💪🏾

    Thank you for sharing

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I have tried explaining to people that I prefer being alerted before a call. And I have received unpleasant responses to that, it’s genuinely a lot. I think the ones that are the worst for me are the ones with clients. 👐🏽

    Liked by 1 person

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