How to Overcome a Phone Phobia
What Is Phone Phobia?
If you suffer from phone phobia, you know the racing heart and sweaty palms well; you know that not knowing who will pick up on the other end when you make a call can create a feeling of terror. Perhaps it's based on the fear of saying something stupid that you can't take back, or the fact that you won't be able to read nonverbal cues for additional feedback during your conversation. Whatever the cause, you're not alone. And you can overcome it.
Phone phobia is a form of social anxiety. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a social phobia involves high levels of anxiety and self-consciousness in everyday situations that others appear (to the person with the anxiety disorder) to achieve with ease—and social phobia in general (not just phone phobia) affects 15 million American men and women. Isn't it nice to know that so many other people feel just as clumsy in social situations as you do?
Overcoming a Phobia of Phones: Kicking Social Anxiety
Knowing you're not alone may ease some of the anxiety right away, but that doesn't mean you're ready to pick up the phone to so much as order a pizza, and you're definitely still less than thrilled with the prospect of calling someone to ask them on a date.
So how do you cure a phobia of phones, or any form of social anxiety, to get on with your life without an aversion to phones? There are medications and psychotherapy, but if your telephone phobia isn't completely ruining your life (thanks, email and text messaging!), you may want to try a few other methods first.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor of any kind, but I have struggled with phone phobia and other social anxiety issues. This is just what has worked for me. My phobia of phones is still there, but I'm not as paralyzed as I once was when it's time to make a phone call. Severe cases of social anxiety, including phone phobia, may require a doctor's attention.
Seek out a job or volunteer opportunity where you will be forced to make several phone calls a day. Working as a hostess in a restaurant or as a salesperson will mean several phone calls a day. Once you've practiced enough, you'll realize you don't hesitate so much when you have no choice but to pick up the phone. You may even begin to prefer it over texting because it's quicker. Remember each successful call so that you can remind yourself of a few of them before you have to make the next one. Try to take notes on the phone calls that don't go as well as you'd like, then try to forget everything else about them.
Realize that the person on the other end is just a person, too. He's just another human, and he says the wrong things at times just like you do. You could even be talking to someone else with a phone phobia who is absolutely sure that you know what you're doing and that he is the one who will inevitably say something wrong. You're probably no more likely to say something dumb than anyone else, especially if you take a few deep breaths before you make the call. Plus, if you're calling to order food or make an appointment and you goof up a little, the person you speak with probably won't notice. Even if he does, he goes through so many phone calls per hour, your mistake will soon be forgotten. You'll be the only one holding onto it, so let it go in order to heal yourself.
Read up on how to chat with strangers in the self-help section of the bookstore. This will serve you well anywhere, on the phone or in person. You'll begin to feel more confident in your communication skills as a whole.
Work up to it. If you have a major job interview that has to be done over the phone, call a few friends, call your parents, call to inquire about a bill, order Chinese food—do something less intimidating. Make a few casual phone calls. It's almost like you're desensitizing yourself to phones before you have to take the call that really matters. If your blood pressure spikes when you hear a phone ring, try asking your friends to call you at set times so the sound won't set your nerves on edge as much. You'll be nervous enough about the job interview; why add to it?
Make a list of things you want to talk about. Read over it a few times so you're familiar enough with your list to improvise a little. You'll still cover your major points, but you won't sound like you're reading a script. Make another list of the things you think the person you're talking to will want to discuss or questions he may ask you. Jot down the answers you'd like to give ahead of time so you're not trying to think of them on the spot. Be proactive and avoid those situations where you think of exactly what you should've said hours after the moment has passed.
If given the opportunity, schedule phone calls. If the other person is expecting your call, you'll be less tempted to procrastinate. If you know someone is calling you at a certain time, you can mentally prepare yourself for it with deep breathing or just looking over your notes ahead of time.
Meditate. This is a natural way to deal with anxiety. Focus on your breathing or a mantra for a few minutes a day and tune everything else out completely. It's sort of a "reset" button for days when panic could set in.
Make sure you're really, truly listening to the other person. It's easy to get wrapped around the idea of what you're going to say next, eagerly waiting your turn so you can sound intelligent, witty, or just offer something more than mere silence. However, if you can really focus on the other person, you're not thinking about yourself or your anxiety at all. Thinking of what to say next will come easily and be tailored to the conversation much better than something you thought of two minutes before it was your turn to speak again. This sounds like it contradicts the make-a-list tip, but the list should serve as a way to jog your memory if you go blank, and to make sure you don't forget to cover a topic. A list can be used much as notecards are used during a speech, but you should be flexible enough to rearrange the topics if necessary for the flow of conversation.
Make a rule for yourself. Make a rule that won't allow you to keep repeating mundane conversations in your head, looking for mistakes you made, ways you unintentionally offended the person on the other end, etc. Once the phone call is over, it's done. If you were having an argument with someone, of course, this rule can be broken. Decide how you feel about what was said, then apologize if necessary.
Once you've used some of these techniques to master your phone phobia and get your social anxiety under control, be sure to keep practicing. If you think you've triumphed over your phobia of phones and then stop using them again, your fear may creep back in. Be sure to challenge yourself daily so that your phobia won't limit your life. If you find that your phone phobia is still interfering with your daily life, talk to your doctor about other options.