Why Introverts Absolutely Loathe Talking on the Phone

A woman who hates talking on the phone picking up her phone for an unwanted call

I hate talking on the phone. I can’t tell you how many companies I’ve passed on doing business with simply because they required I call to make inquiries. When it comes to food delivery, I only choose restaurants that allow me to order online. If my phone rings, the only way I’m answering is if the call is coming from someone I know — and even then it’s iffy.

I know I’m not the only introvert that hates phone calls, and there are plenty of us who actually have anxiety talking on the phone. It’s kind of a known thing — I mean, there are entire comics dedicated to the subject. But why do most introverts hate phone calls so much?

(Wondering what an introvert is? Check out this explanation.)

Why Introverts Don’t Like Talking on the Phone

First and foremost, a ringing phone is incredibly intrusive. Like an alarm clock or crying baby, it demands attention RIGHT NOW! We have to switch gears quickly, wrenching our focus away from whatever we were doing — and when you’re deep in thought, that’s really irritating. Furthermore, we don’t have time to mentally prepare for the conversation, which, for introverts, can be like pulling teeth.

Many phone calls (or at least the opening moments) are chock-full of small talk. Since the majority of introverts aren’t fond of small talk, this immediately starts the call off on an awkward note. This inane chitchat feels fake, and we’re left wondering how much is enough to be polite before moving on to the “real” conversation.

We’re not the best phone buddies. Generally speaking, we have a tendency to take our time thinking things through and responding. Those long, awkward pauses don’t translate well over the phone. The more talkative our phone-mate is, the less we’ll be able to say, and eventually, we’ll get bored and give up trying to keep the conversation alive.

Non-verbal communication (aka body language) is remarkably important to conversation. Introverts rely heavily on observation skills, and being unable to see our conversation partner is extremely frustrating. We can’t examine their facial expressions to discern their true feelings, or anticipate when they’re about to speak so we can avoid interrupting. Many introverts already consider social interaction to be uncomfortable at best; removing helpful visual cues just ends up making things so much worse.

Focusing the whirlwind mind of an introvert on the intangible nature of telephone discourse can be incredibly difficult. There’s a lot going on in our heads, and piling a disembodied conversation on top of everything can be a bit too much sensory input for our liking. It’s so exhausting that it often leads us to retreat back into our thoughts. This, in turn, causes us to have to force ourselves back to the conversation. Needless to say, our phone buddy may not get the consideration that they deserve.

How to Talk on the Phone With (Some) Ease

As much as we may hate it, there are times when talking on the phone is necessary. Whether it be scheduling appointments or disputing a charge, we have to bite the bullet and make it happen. Fortunately, there are a handful of ways to make the process less painful:

  • Have a plan. For business-related matters, spend a little time prior to the call writing a brief script or several talking points. This will help to avoid awkward silences or stumbling over your words. Find a quiet and private place to make your call. The quiet will ensure you’re not interrupted, and privacy means you won’t have to worry about being overheard. It’s also a good idea to keep a notepad handy in order to jot down anything said during the duration of the call that you don’t want to forget.
  • Make time. For phone calls with friends and relatives, having a schedule will be mutually beneficial. Work out a time when you’ll both be available, and put it in your calendar. They’ll know you’ll actually answer the call, and you’ll have plenty of time to mentally prepare yourself for the conversation.
  • Color or doodle. Though it sounds counterintuitive, multitasking can help you keep your head in the discussion. Choose a simple task that can be done without much thought, such as doodling/coloring, cleaning the house, brushing your pet, or assembling a jigsaw puzzle. This also helps get rid of anxiety talking on the phone. You’ll keep the restless part of your mind occupied while retaining your focus on the conversation.
  • Have a reward. Even when talking to a loved one, phone calls aren’t likely to be your favorite thing in the world. As with so many other detestable tasks, the key is to motivate yourself. One way to drum up motivation is to plan a reward to be enjoyed once you conclude your call. I’m food motivated, so a big ol’ slice of chocolate cake or a candy bar is sure to get me moving forward. However, your reward is your choice — a walk in the park, a new book, a trip to the movies with friends — whatever floats your boat!

How to De-Phone Your Life

Just because a phone call here or there is necessary doesn’t mean the damn thing has to take over your life. If you’re looking for ways to quiet that incessant ringing, look no further.

  • Turn your ringer off or switch your ringtone to something calming or fun.
  • Record a voicemail message that tells callers to text or email you.
  • When filling out contact details on forms, provide your email address rather than your phone number whenever possible.
  • If you’re calling a business (or person) that you don’t want to have your phone number, you can prevent it from showing up on their caller ID relatively easily.
  • When giving your number to a friend, let them know that you are unlikely to answer a phone call and that your preferred method of communication is to text.
  • If you miss a call from a friend or family member, use text to get back to them.
  • Be prompt in returning emails, Facebook messages, and texts from loved ones. It will subconsciously reinforce that this is the quickest way to reach you.

As it stands, 77 percent of Americans currently own a smartphone. With numbers like that, there’s no reason why the majority of your friends and family can’t text you. If you’ve expressed your dislike for talking on the phone, and proven you can be quickly reached via alternative methods, then they should be respectful of your wishes.

This may be a pie-in-the-sky theory, but I truly believe that it won’t be much longer before phone calls as we know them now are a thing of the past. Until then, we’ll have to put up with them. Let’s just hope telemarketers don’t advance along with our technology.

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Liz Greene is a writer, anxiety-ridden realist, and full blown pop culture geek from the beautiful City of Trees, Boise, ID. When not stalking the aisles of her local Ulta, she can be found shoveling down sushi while discussing the merits of the latest Game of Thrones fan theories. You can follow her on Twitter @LizVGreene, or check out her latest post on Three Broke Bunnies.