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phone anxiety and phone phobia is real

5 Tips For Beating Phone Anxiety

Phone Anxiety? You’re Not Alone

Don’t like using the phone with customers or colleagues? Does the thought of making or answering a phone call at work make you anxious? Do you default to email or text even when you know using the phone is the better choice? You’re not alone.

It's not just a generational thing

Phone anxiety, sometimes called “telephobia” or “phone phobia” is a real thing, and impacts a large percentage of the workforce. A recent UK study of 2,000 office workers found that 65% experienced phone anxiety in the last 12 months. It’s been on the rise for a number of years and, while more prevalent with people under 35, spans all generations.

Why the anxiety?

At its core, the cause of this phenomenon is fairly straight-forward – the absence of skill and practice. It’s like anything else. The less often we do something, the less comfortable, confident and capable we become. Conversations – in-person and on the phone – fall into this category.

Text, SMS, chat and email long ago eclipsed our use of telephone at home and in business – to the point that many companies eliminated telephone from their customer service options all together. Covid 19 then put a significant damper on live, in-person conversations. Then the concept of ‘work-from-home’ became endemic, as millions of people around the world entered the workforce without the opportunity to develop the interpersonal skills that come from a live work environment.

We’ve lost the art of dialogue

Live conversation – phone call or in-person – is a dialogue. Email, text and chat are different. Instead of being dialogues they are a series of monologues – which are missing the dynamics and human element of a conversation.

A dialogue is organic, real-time and visceral. Written communication is planned, crafted, considered and executed. These are very different skill sets, and phone anxiety (as well as in-person anxiety) comes from a lack of confidence and comfort with conversation and dialogue.

Why should you care?

There is a large body of evidence that points to the importance of true dialogue and not avoiding the telephone. More often than not, it leads to better outcomes for everyone. The reality is that telephone and in-person communication is often faster and more efficient. It will have a significantly more positive impact when you need to advise a customer or internal customer about a delay or a problem. It is less likely to end in an escalation. The list goes on.

Five tips for beating phone-anxiety

One thing is for certain. If you find talking on the phone to be stressful, it will never go away by just ignoring it. Your best bet is to do the exact opposite. The more you practice, the easier it becomes. As the Latin saying goes, Repetitio est mater studiorum – “Repetition is the mother of study.” Here are five tips that will help you on your journey:

1. Prepare

Whenever you have the opportunity, prepare ahead of time. One of the things that makes phone calls stressful having to think on your feet and interact in real time. You can mitigate this by being prepared. Make sure you have reviewed things ahead of time. Think about the kinds of questions you may be asked and how to respond.

2. Use positive language

Frame things positively. For example, instead of saying, “You’re going to have to send that in writing, say, “If you can send this in writing, it will help to ensure things go more smoothly.” Avoid words and phrases that can trigger negative emotions or responses, such as “yabut” or “this is our policy.”

3. Remember that the other person is human – just like you

They may be dreading the call just as much as you, and will appreciate knowing that you aren’t just some uncaring person on the other end. Be empathetic. Let them know you understand why this is important to them.

4. Control the call

Use questions when possible to control the direction, tone and outcome of the call.

5. Manage your voice

Be careful of your tone. You don’t want to come across as irritated, disinterested, condescending or worse. Imagine you’re talking to your grandmother or other favourite person.

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