Overcoming Phone Phobia

With Aimee Bateman

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Overcoming Phone Phobia


How many times have you sent an email to a customer or supplier when you really should have called them? You're used to using a phone but the idea of having to call someone in an open space office seems to give you the jitters. 

If this sounds like you, you may have phone phobia. We're going to show you how to beat those nerves, pick up the phone and talk with confidence. 


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Overcoming Phone Phobia

Hi, I’m Aimee Bateman I’m a careers coach and founder of Careercake and in this video, we’re going to talk about overcoming phone phobia

We all have one of these (holds phone). But we tend to live with it on silent and the one thing that we never use it for is to actually talk.

That’s probably an exaggeration but it is the thing that we do the least. We text, we WhatsApp, we DM, we chat to people through social media apps. So many don’t ever use our phone to actually talk.

The increasing popularity of texting has massively contributed to a fear of talking on the phone. A growing number of people, especially us millennials, prefer texting to calling.

The fear of making and receiving phone calls is common. It even has its own name: phone phobia also called telephone phobia or telephobia I think I’ve seen it called! There can be various reasons why a person might be afraid of phone calls. And it’s not just millennials. I was in London with a client last week, a hiring manager with 25 years experience at a top financial intuition and she fears talking on the phone, she does speak on stage sometimes though in front of hundreds of people but she fears the phone. Even our cameraman earlier said, “I don’t like talking on the phone”. We laughed and we all had a bit of a joke, but it is really common.

This fear isn’t just about salespeople who have to make those cold calls - of course they might be scared about making cold calls - but no, I’m talking about all the calls whether you don’t have a job in sales but you need to talk to customers, colleagues, suppliers, business partners.

People who mostly communicate over text or email worry about having less time to craft their message on a phone call. You don’t get the chance to sit there reading and editing the conversation in the way you would with a text or with an email. Also, you may fear that if you phone someone you’re bothering them – “Nobody actually no one calls each other anymore.” In fact, people actually send emails to ask, “Is it okay if I give you a call?”

Living your work life just communicating via email is not the best way to build relationships. It’s not the best way to have the most impact in your role. Sometimes, you just have to pick up the phone. Especially if you are going to progress and you’re going to move into a leadership role. You’re going to have to get comfortable having live interactions with people.

You want to be speaking to customers. You want to be building your relationship with suppliers, you want to be building relationship with colleagues and focusing on credibility and trust and speaking to people and showing them who you are. That’s how you build rapport. And the good thing is that if you pick up the phone, you get an answer like that (clicks fingers) you don’t just send an email, send it off and hope that within a couple of hours you’re going to get an answer. Sometimes it can take weeks. It can be quicker to just pick up the phone. And, when miscommunication happens in texts and emails it’s often always in the direction of you came off in a way you didn’t want to come off. You came off a lot more harsh than you meant to be. And of course there are times when emails are better because you because you might have to document something or if you’re going over something really, really detailed, but when it comes to needing to improve those relationships or maybe build new ones, you’ve got to pick up the phone.

There are some things that you can do to help with this phone phobia, to overcome this phone phobia and One is: remember that regardless of the person’s job title they are just a person. People often worry that they won’t know an answer to a question. “What if they ask me something and I don’t know the answer to it?” and this fear often comes about when you’re are speaking to somebody a little bit more senior than you, either in your company or maybe another company.

Two: Remember that pauses are a totally normal part of conversations. There can sometimes be a fear of a really long awkward silence on the phone but remember that pauses are part of the natural ebb and flow of conversations. They rarely last as long as you think they do. You might in your head feel like you were quiet for minutes, for hours, but in reality, it was just seconds. So next time you notice what you think is an awkward pause, try counting in your head see how long it lasts. Usually it is just seconds, I promise. And the more you do this the more you get comfortable. I now do this out of habit because I’ve been doing it so many times but yeah, pauses are normal.

Next, remind yourself that people want you to call them; their number is there, their number exists because they want you to phone them and you’re not just sending them an email, you’re taking the time to actually get to know them, to phone them. You can clarify stuff, they can clarify stuff, you can have a two-way conversation. And what you are not doing is just sending them another email that is just going to be added to another list of emails that they’ve got to answer that day. You’re not adding to their to-do list. One quick call and it’s sorted.

Next, know that you’re not expected to be perfect. Now you may worry that when you get on the phone you’re going to ramble, you’re going to just make a mess of it and you are put off making the call until you’ve got the perfect start to whatever it is you want to say. So what I want you to do is make a few bullet points on a pad…not a script (that will confuse you more and it’ll restrict the natural flow of conversation). Just a few bullet points of what you want to discuss, what you know that you want cover or what the outcome should be. What you want to get from the call and then if you get sidetracked or you panic you just come back to your bullet points.

When I was doing my research around phone phobia the most common fear was being asked something you don’t know the answer to. So, don’t stress about not knowing the answer to everything. You are not expected to know everything about the business or to answer every single question immediately. You can always come back to them later.

Another piece of advice that I like to give people is to recall successful calls that you have had in the past. Make a note every time you have a great call. Why was it great? How did you feel? Then in the future when you might be a little bit nervous about making a phone call you can read your notes and remind yourself that calls are a good thing. I have to say that nothing horrendous is going to happen when you pick up that phone. It’s never going to be anything you can’t recover from.

I once watched a colleague sneeze, mid-call, hang up and still recover. And by colleague I mean it was me! Hi Jo! - my manager, who was sat next to me, staring at me saying “Seriously? Did you just hang up the phone?” I said “Yes”. I sneezed, I panicked, I just hung up the phone and then I sat there, staring at it for about 5 minutes just dying, thinking “How am I gonna recover?” but I did. I picked up the phoned him back, apologised, it was very embarrassing, we all had a giggle, but anyway, I recovered.  

So, remember:

  • Regardless of their job title, they are just a person.
  • Remember pauses are totally normal. They’re part of conversation; it’s natural to just be silent for a moment.
  • Remind yourself that people want you to call. They don’t want another email necessarily to add to their inbox.
  • Remember that you’re not expected to be perfect.
  • Don’t stress about not knowing everything – nobody knows everything and
  • Keep notes as little reminders of successful calls that you’ve had so you can think about them in the future.

So, do those things, watch your confidence grow, if you sneeze, don’t hang up the phone! And watch your business relationships improve, because they will – I promise!