If your job involves making or receiving phone calls, a phone phobia could be a significant hindrance to your happiness and success at work. There are a few strategies that will help you overcome phone anxiety that you should try before you rush out to find a new job. With practice and patience, you may be able to overcome your fear.
Do you or any of your employees struggle with phone phobia? Below we’ll explain what it means to have phone phobia, how you can overcome it, what employers
Phone phobia or phone anxiety is a fear of making or receiving phone calls. There are a lot of people out there who don’t like talking on the phone, but this dislike or fear is considered a phobia if you experience symptoms like a racing heartbeat, shortness of breath, or severe anxiety before or after speaking with someone on the phone.
Although most prevalent in people with Social Anxiety Disorder, phone phobia can afflict anyone, even those who never agonize over their social interactions in any other setting.
There are a few different reasons why phone calls are intimidating. For one, you can’t see the person on the other line, so it’s difficult to gauge what they think and feel about you. Verbal communication is only one piece of our interactions with others. We also rely on a person’s body language and facial expressions to derive how they feel about what we’re saying—through nodding, winking, raised eyebrows, eye contact, and so on. When these visual cues are taken away, it can make us feel unsure of how to proceed with the conversation.
Consider a long silence in a phone conversation. Silences are a natural part of any face-to-face communication, as after we ask a question or make a statement, we need to allow the other person to consider what we’ve said. We can watch the wheels turn in their brain and see if they’re smiling or frowning. No such luck with the phone. If you’re prone to anxiety, even a silence that lasts a few seconds can be agonizing. What are they thinking? Do they think that question was stupid? Do they even know what I’m talking about?
Phone conversations also mean we can’t collect our thoughts as well as we can when sending an email. When we sit down to write an email, we have time to make sure the words sound right, and we’re conveying exactly what we intend. On the phone, it’s a lot easier to slip up and say something the wrong way or say something we don’t mean. Unlike email or text, we can’t simply delete the words before we hit send—the words are out there, and there’s nothing we can do to reverse it. This fear of saying the wrong thing can eat away at us until we avoid making phone calls altogether.
Coupled with the fear of speaking on the phone is the embarrassment that often follows being afraid of what someone else might consider a simple task. This is why it’s so important to express empathy to any co-worker or employee who suffers from phone phobia.
You need to breathe. While this may sound like obvious advice, many of us forget to breathe deeply and regularly over the course of our busy day. Do you find yourself frequently yawning in the afternoon and evening despite not feeling tired? That’s courtesy of your oxygen-starved brain—it’s trying to get more air any way it can.
When we forget to breathe, panic is right around the corner.
To stave off panic, be deliberate with your breath. Before placing a phone call, try the 4x4x4, or box breathing exercise.
Box breathing reduces stress and lifts your mood, and is used in the treatment of those with panic and anxiety disorders, as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression. Intentional deep breathing helps to quiet and control your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS), which can lower blood pressure and keep you calm.
Before you place the phone call, take several long and deep breaths. Wait until your calm is restored before you pick up the phone.
We smile when we’re happy or amused, but forcing yourself to smile during challenging situations lowers your stress level and heart rate while lifting your mood. The act of smilingspurs a chemical reaction in the brain, releasing hormones like dopamine and serotonin. To put it another way, smiling even when you don’t feel like it tricks your brain into thinking you’re actually happy.
Plus, the person you’re speaking with will be able to hear you smiling, which will make your voice sound warm and kind, likely endearing you to the person on the other line.
Before placing a call, jot down a few of the main points you want to touch on.
Don’t write a complete script or try to anticipate everything that’s going to happen—any deviation from your script may cause your anxiety to flare up. Create a general outline so you don’t worry about forgetting something while you’re on the call.
Practice makes perfect. At home, try placing calls to people you trust, such as family, friends, co-workers, or your spouse, to become more familiar with the mechanics and sensation of speaking on the phone.
Practice placing phone calls with someone you trust watching, as you may have to place calls at work with your co-workers nearby.
As an employer, it is imperative that you show any employees suffering from phone anxiety empathy. Even if placing a phone call seems like a simple task to you, it’s extremely challenging for someone with phone phobia. If an employee approaches you with this sensitive issue, take it seriously. Demonstrate your empathy and understanding by coming up with alternatives and solutions for tackling phone anxiety at work.
Each of your employees is going to have a variety of different strengths and weaknesses—it’s all part of having a dynamic team. As you make new hires and build your team, make every effort to understand each team member’s unique strengths and weaknesses to create a well-rounded team.
A team that doesn’t communicate is no team at all, and even the most thoughtful and considerate among us need to brush up on our communication skills from time to time. Build these communication skills across your team.
Create team building activities that focus on communication skills that can help your employees who suffer from phone phobia, such as an Improv workshop or a session devoted to breathing exercises.
If phone phobia is a serious problem for one of your employees, consider if using the phone is a completely necessary aspect of their job.
Between email, Slack, texting, and in-person meetings, could your employee complete their work successfully without touching the phone? What other tasks could they take on instead of making phone calls, at least until their phobia is reduced?
It could be that a position in sales outreach is not the right fit for them, but a position as a social media coordinator is perfect. Help your employee find the best fit for them, as this will help you both succeed in the workplace.
If you aspire never to make a phone call again, there are a number of office jobs that don’t require talking on the phone.
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