Phone Anxiety? Here’s How to Change That
It’s hard to remember a time before caller ID or voicemail, when missing a phone call meant potentially missing important news or events. Now it’s common to screen phone calls or have endless text message conversations, saving direct phone calls for your most urgent needs. It’s gotten to the point where many people are actually anxious about making phone calls, doing everything they can to actively avoid them. This is known as telephobia.
“In recent times when we've hardly been separated from our phones, phone anxiety has amplified in a lot of people,” relationship expert and clinical psychologist Sameera Sullivan tells CircleAround. She notes that relying on social messaging apps to communicate, seeing text messages but not responding to them, and delaying pending calls to friends and family are all signs of telephobia. “I have helped a lot of people overcome their phone anxiety by adapting certain practices that make it easier to pick up the phone again,” she adds.
Here are a few methods Sullivan recommends for overcoming telephobia.
1Remove the Weight of the Task
A lot of telephobia has to do with ideas we think are bigger and scarier than they actually are. Sullivan suggests the best way to start the process is by reframing the magnitude of the telephobia instead.
“Think about phone calls as nonconsequential,” she tells CircleAround. After all, what could go wrong? “Tell yourself that it's better to get done with a pending call than to linger it, and trust me, you'll feel much less anxious.”
2Make a Simple List
There are probably a few folks you can name off the top of your head who you’d like to speak with more often, and who would love to hear from you, too. Write these names down, along with something you’d like to talk to them about. Keep the topics light at first so it feels easier, but make it a specific topic, since “catching up” can feel broad and overwhelming.
3Write a Little Script
“A lot of us avoid answering or making calls because we're kind of lost for words,” Sullivan tells CircleAround. “The more we think about it, the more overwhelming it seems.” You can reduce a lot of anxiety by writing out the things you want to say.
First, write down a few open-ended questions. It’s always easier, and sometimes more interesting, to be the one asking the questions, and open-ended questions will provide a nice flow for conversation. Follow that with a few bullet points that relate to your own responses or things you’d like the other person to know, so you don’t have to worry about remembering them while you’re on the call.
4Set a Time Limit
Give yourself a goal of 10 to 15 minutes for the entire call. It’s enough time to say hello and let the other person know you’re thinking about them, but also short enough that if you still don’t feel comfortable, you can easily hop off.
“Planning how to start and end a conversation can really put you in control of the phone call,” Sullivan adds. You can’t go wrong: The short time frame sets a boundary, but if you’re enjoying yourself, you can stay on the call longer.
5Phone That Friend!
“Call them before your mind goes into an overthinking spiral,” Sullivan says. Don’t even give yourself the chance to second guess it. Once you’ve had a bit of time to think things through, pick up the phone and dial the first person on the list. See how you feel while armed with this new methodology, and take it from there.
6The Bottom Line
While it may be easier to text or message a loved one on a social media app, connecting over a phone call will create a personal experience that will get easier with time. By preparing a bit in advance, you can control your experience and hopefully feel better about calling or picking up the phone in the future.