Fun On the Phone: Overcoming Phone Angst

Social anxiety can manifest in various ways, such as nervousness when eating around others or even when writing in front of others due to fear that one’s hand might shake or come across weird. Basically, what social anxiety is no matter in what way it manifests is that a person is concerned about performance and feels a sense of being negatively evaluated or judged.

For some people, having phone angst is another form of social anxiety, if it’s basically a concern about performance. Yet, it’s important to note that not all “telephone anxiety” is social anxiety. One may be nervous about the telephone due to a fear of receiving bad news during a phone call, for example, which isn’t really social anxiety.

However, the most common meaning of telephone anxiety equates with social anxiety. Interestingly, not everyone with social anxiety has telephone anxiety, just like not everyone with social anxiety has anxiety when eating or writing around others.

Personally, I have no special anxiety whatsoever eating or writing around others (nor when using a public restroom, etc.). However, I do feel some anxiety talking with people, and this includes on the telephone. Again, this is because of concern about how I come across or, in other words, my “social performance.”

Note: You may be wondering why the title of this includes the words “Fun On the Phone”, since having anxiety is no fun at all. The point is that I think being on the phone can sometimes be fun, but of course it can also be painful when one is anxious or self-conscious. But one can play around with talking to others on the phone.

Just no obscene phone calls.

Phone Angst Symptoms

I think too much about how I come across and the way I sound when I’m on the phone. I analyze my voice and determine that it’s monotone. I’m concerned with whether the other person is responding negatively to me or not.

When I call and ask, say, what time a place opens and closes, I’m thinking whether I should greet the person who answers the phone. For instance, if the person says, “Hello, Oakland Public Library”, should I say “Hi! What time does the library close today?” or should I just say, “What time does the library close today?” I think the version with the greeting comes across better, but a part of me is reluctant to say the greeting, probably because I’m not a gregarious person by nature and saying a chirpy “Hi!” doesn’t flow out of me based on my true feelings.

When I did use a greeting a few times recently, however. it made me feel more confident and assertive, so I do like to start out with a greeting.

What matters more is the tone of voice. That’s the thing I notice the most when other people on the phone talk to me; I mean, someone can say all the right words but it still won’t be harmonious interaction unless there’s a friendly and/or pleasing voice behind it.

Lately I also deliberately speak louder and move my lips more to enunciate. This is because I often used to mumble.

In a way, it helps to not think much about how I come across, and in another way it helps to consider how to improve the way I come across. It’s a subtle distinction between analyzing oneself in a way that either hinders or helps, kind of like the difference between dwelling on a problem or focusing on a solution.

How To Make A Professional Phone Call

I actually feel almost confident enough these days to get a job that involves talking to people on the telephone. Many business people and especially salespeople use scripts.

A telephone script needs to be rehearsed just like an actor rehearses a script. The more it’s rehearsed, the more natural it is to say it. This means being confident instead of sounding like a robot.

Calling The Big Boys

About a week ago, I called the Secret Service, the local police department, and the FBI. It wasn’t a big deal. I was just calling to report an attempted scam via Facebook.  I had no idea at first how to report a scam, so I did a bit of research and found instruction to call Secret Service. The Secret Service listened to my blah blah blah and suggested that I call local police, and the person on that line suggested I call FBI. Then the person who answered the phone for FBI directed me to the FBI webpage for specifically reporting Internet scams.

I didn’t feel phone anxiety when I was calling about the scam because I was eager to fink on this scammer.  Actually, I was initially going to just ignore it, but two months after the scam attempt occurred, I suddenly got this idea to report it, so why not? I thought I’d have a little fun and maybe it would teach this scammer a lesson.

I truly don’t think this scammer will get in trouble, though. That’s because I don’t think my case is a priority with the FBI, since it’s not the type of scam that’s pervasive and because I didn’t lose any money.

Here’s what happened: I joined a Facebook business group, and so this person welcomed me. He then added me as a Facebook “friend” and contacted me via Facebook Messenger. He continued to send me instant messages on Facebook frequently–about twice a week, pretending he was attracted to and had a thing for me. I believed it at first, though I didn’t care much, since I wasn’t interested in him. So I suggested he message me less frequently.

WTF what the fuck
Social anxiety can inhibit people in some ways and not in other ways. Personally, I have no trouble using 4-letter words when appropriate or saying no to people when the situation calls for it.

About a month later, I get a message asking, “Do you have a credit card?”

I replied, “Why do you ask if I have a credit card? Do you have a credit card?”

“I want you to help me. I want to send you money to buy me iphones so I sell and make profit. Am tired of working hard. It’s time to work smart,” he requested.

“You got to be kidding. No way,” I answered back. And that was the last time he messaged me. Good riddance!

Handling Scammers On Phone

I’ve been contacted by fake Microsoft tech support person/s three times. Every time I’d tell them without hesitation that I know it’s a scam, then hang up on them.

I had read it’s a good idea NOT to talk to scammers on the phone at all. Don’t bother mingling with them or telling them off. That’s because by talking with a scammer, one may inadvertently give out information about oneself. For example, if one were to threaten a scammer by saying how one has a brother who’s a police officer and so the scammer better watch out, the scammer would then know more about the person (having a brother as a police officer).  They can even sell this information to other scammers. So the only effective communication with a phone scammer is to hang up.

Calling For A Cause

I get petitions to sign every day via email, mainly animal causes because I’m an animal person. (Most of these petitions come from signing up at change.org, but I also get email petitions and alerts from other organizations that support animal or environmental causes.)  Although I’m basically apolitical, I do have compassion for some things, and I’m into fairness and justice and whatever makes sense.

Anyway, occasionally instead of a petition to sign, I get emails suggesting to call a political representative to support a bill or something. I’ll disregard it because I don’t t feel I’d make a good impression on the phone or don’t think I’d be persuasive due to my voice and/or the way I come across.

However, just like I feel almost confident enough to get a job that involves using the phone, I’m now just about confident enough to call a representative. I’ll need to write a script and rehearse it some before I call and converse. I’m guessing I may or may not get to talk to the political representative at first but perhaps speak with a personal assistant. Either way is okay, as long as I just make the call.

Telephone Tips For Confidence:

There are a number of things I’ve found that makes for more effective telephone communication, and being effective stems from confidence.

woman on telephone standing assertive
Confident body language makes you feel more confident on the phone.
  • Speak up. Deliberately speak louder.  This is because having anxiety generally causes one to speak too soft. By speaking up, you automatically feel more confident.
  • Speak slower. Enunciate or articulate each and every syllable.
  • Try to vary the pitch and volume, but don’t try or think too hard. Relax.
  • Have assertive body language while on the phone, whether sitting or standing. Even though the other person on the telephone won’t see it, you will feel the difference and you’ll feel more confident and be more effective in communicating.
  • Know what you’ll talk about before you pick up the phone and have some idea of how to say it, even if you don’t write a script. For example, when I call the political representative and he/she answers, I’ll start with a greeting, mention where I heard about this bill and how I did a bit of research on it, and how I really want them to support it. Then I can imagine representative saying blah, blah, and I reply blah, blah, etc.
  • Be a good listener. After all is said and done, being a good listener is one of the most if not the most important thing, whether in person or on the phone. Listening well enables one to respond appropriately and effectively.

As with anything, practice makes perfect. But it doesn’t have to be a drag to overcome phone angst. It can actually be fun. It’s really all in how one looks at it.

8 Replies to “Fun On the Phone: Overcoming Phone Angst

  1. I found this article very helpful and I like that it is written so well.
    I like how this article explains the symptoms, and the videos help a lot! I like the way the videos helped to blend the content together.

    I like how this content presents a problem, and a solution that is easy to understand and digest.

    Great work and great job addressing a real problem.

    1. Glad you liked it and found it very helpful, Alexander.

      The aim of this article is to be kind of amusing and informative, much like being a good conversationalist is a mixture of listening well, having a bit of humor and adding something onto a discussion.

      Yes, acknowledging a problem and tackling it seems to be what life is about, and phone anxiety is a problem common to those with social anxiety.

  2. I had really bad phone angst when I was a freelance web developer. Clients would always want to talk about projects over the phone. Having nice clients helped a lot as they often made jokes or came across very personable when speaking on the phone. Otherwise, I would try to prep myself for the conversation making sure I had notes ready for any points I wanted to cover. Your advice about speaking slower is very good advice. When I’m nervous I tend to speak faster.

    1. Hello, Eartha. Since you write in past tense about having bad phone angst, it sounds like you overcame it or it went away. From my personal experience, not worrying much about it helps and focusing on solution as opposed to problem. I sometimes mumble, so speaking slower and enunciating works for me too.

      Even when one works at home as you did as a freelance web developer, it’s nice to be able to converse with clients freely and effectively over the phone.

  3. I really needed this article. I definitely experience phone angst when making business calls. The video was very helpful and helps give me something to follow in case the angst takes over. Tips for confidence are something I will be putting to use also. Great article, I’ll be sharing for sure.

    1. Happy you found this article helpful, Lane. I suppose business calls can feel a bit unnerving for a lot of people, even if they don’t have generalized social anxiety. Yes, I thought the video would be helpful. Glad you like the tips for confidence as well.

      It would be very nice for you to share it indeed. Thanks.

  4. What a great article about overcoming phone angst. I have never really liked talking on the phone and found I’d often put it off. I’m getting better with more practice and I have to say that I really like the idea of creating a phone script. The more comfortable you are saying it the easier it will become (and quiet natural too when it feels familiar). Thanks for suggestion and the other great tips listed!

    1. Thanks, Amanda. Yes, creating a script may help and I also find spending a little time imagining it in my head helps. That is, imagining it the way I want the phone conversation to go, as opposed to fearing how it may go in a way I don’t want it to go. Often it is all in one’s head.

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