It's Time To Call It A Day On Phone Conversations

If dialing the doctor makes you nauseous, you're not alone.

16/05/2016 10:23 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:52 PM AEST
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Why are so many of us still attached to the mobile phone yet keep as much distance as we can between the phone and our mouths?

There are two types of people: those who pick up the phone to make a call and the rest of us, the voice-call averse, who will do almost anything to avoid speaking on the phone.

I used to think my extreme reluctance to talking on the phone was an anomaly, a quirk particular to me because I'm shy or maybe, on a deeper psycho-babble level, because I'm afraid of what I can't see. But it has become apparent that I don't own this fear. In fact, I am just one of hundreds of thousands of people who stare at the phone with horror when it rings and will use anything in their arsenal of avoidance techniques when it comes to making a call.

It has often been said that Generation Z are attached to their phones, but I'm pretty sure they aren't the only generation. The major difference is that while a lot of us grew up and spent our afternoons on the home phone chatting to friends until our parents unplugged the phone to give our siblings a turn, Generation Z and the tail end of the Millennials had a whole different social upbringing. They opened Instant Messenger and typed their conversations all afternoon. They haven't really ever used the phone to simply chat.

A Washington Post article quotes Stephanie Shih, a 27-year-old brand marketing manager of a New York-based company, who says phones seem outdated and phone calls are an interruption. Neither she, nor the majority of her colleagues, have work phones and she takes scheduled work calls once or twice a week. Shih says: "Even my dentist's office texts me because they know phone calls can be burdensome."

So while those young people may require an email before a call to warn them of the interruption, what about Gen X and Boomers? Why are so many of us still attached to the mobile phone yet keep as much distance as we can between the phone and our mouths?

When I expressed my hatred of speaking on the phone to my Facebook followers I was surprised as to how many people felt the same way as I did. These were the people who, like me, sometimes take a week to phone the doctor to make an appointment (this even after I have timed the call and know that it will take no longer than 40 seconds.) One person commented that she would rather take on a public speaking gig than speak on the phone, many professed their love for doctors, restaurants or hairdressers that take email bookings and more than one mentioned the idea of outsourcing calls to a personal or virtual assistant.

Reluctance to make or receive calls is often classified as a form of social anxiety. Reasons for the fear may be a manifestation of a generalised anxiety or it may be because of the immediacy of reply that a call dictates. There are no comfortable silences on the phone line and no option of editing yourself. We all know that if you have to respond to something immediately there is more chance you will choke. The very thought of it makes me want to switch my phone to do-not-disturb. Permanently.

While it is common to feel nervous when making an important call, it isn't ideal to feel that way every time you need to make contact with someone via the phone. Luckily, there seem to be many ideas that will help you get there. Writing down what you want to say, being in a safe space, smiling when you speak, practising the conversation out loud, positive visualisation and remembering the person on the other side of the phone can't actually see you are all great ways to "get into the zone". Unfortunately so is practise -- anxiety thrives on avoidance, or so they say.

Obviously, if this is a major problem for you and getting in the way of your day-to-day activities or your happiness you should seek professional help.

In the meantime, I am sticking to text and waiting for the day voice calls become obsolete.

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