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 loathe 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?

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, is 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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  • Ann Isik says:

    Yes, agree with everything you write. Love this site. I’ve been fed up for a long time with the negative attribution to ‘introversion’. Introverts are not ‘inadequate’ people – look up the definition of the word! And as well as ‘hating’ phone conversations, I think you will find that most introverts switch off their doorbells, cannot abide proximal building works and proximity to pylons. 🙂

  • njguy54 says:

    For those of us old enough to remember life before Caller ID, voicemail and phone alternatives like email and text, the phone was way more disruptive. Our household has one phone… and every incoming call was treated like an emergency. Who could it be? Your best friend? That boy/girl you’re madly in love with? A relative making a rare long-distance call? Dad’s boss? Someone calling to tell us we won a million dollars? The President?!?! A wrong number? Before Caller ID, you had no idea who it was, so all calls carried equal urgency — and had to be answered right away, as there was no way for the caller to leave a message. At least now, we have tools to help us manage incoming calls so that they’re less stressful and less of an intrusion.

  • Lynne Fisher says:

    Great article – I share of lot of the feelings about this and I have an INFJ introvert friend who won’t answer unless unless the call is prearranged – ie for a long chat. I hate making ‘crucial’ phone calls but try not to care too much and yes, I use notes! Much prefer texts and email, but sometimes voice to voice is more useful to sort out a problem that is going back and forth for too long by email

  • nilobee says:

    “For introverts and highly sensitive people.” Totally different animals.

  • Sam Hergott says:

    I just discovered this site and I love it! This article especially speaks to me. Ever since I was a kid I hated talking on the phone and always felt like a freak (especially during those all important teenage years when teenage girls are “expected” to talk on the phone for hours. So grateful for my smart phone and the ability to text and I’ve finally “groomed” most people that that is the best way to contact me.

  • Bluebelle7 says:

    I grew up incredibly awkward on the phone. I know that people thought I was rude or having a panic attack. I had a sibling who would call me up and pretend to be my teacher, which made me paranoid, and I always found it very awkward to not be able to SEE the person’s reaction. Always felt that I might be intruding and calling someone when they were busy and didn’t want to be disturbed –
    and has anyone ever had the experience of hearing the person say that they had no idea who you were? I remember calling a girl who was in the top social group and overhearing her telling her mother that she had no idea who I was ( and her mom said’ well, you talk to her anyway!’)
    I love having emails and texting. So much less intimidating.
    Now video chatting is a whole different story….ugh.

    • njguy54 says:

      Video chatting has three legitimate functions:

      1) Allowing grandparents to see their grandkids
      2) Allowing participants in a business teleconference to check each other to make sure no one’s snoozing
      3) Allowing horny people to see each other naked

  • Tameka Ann-Marie says:

    I can certainly relate to this. Talking on the phone makes me really uneasy, especially if you can’t see the person you are conversing with. If the caller is unknown, that makes it even worse too. Most times when I get an unexpected call, I just stare at my phone, debating in my head if I should answer it or not. I just can’t deal with all that awkwardness and silent pauses that comes with phone calls. This is why I prefer email and texts.

  • Daniel Faranight says:

    I have definitely found multi-tasking while on the phone to, ironically, help me focus on the phone call and make me feel more at ease with being on the phone.

    I loathe speaking on the phone so much that none of my friends or family even try calling me anymore and I won’t even listen to voicemail.

  • Shanna Dayton says:

    I work in inside sales/account management and I really struggle with the phone. I hate calling customers and vendors. I’ll only do it if I’m not getting a response via email. I’m currently looking to change careers and one of the main reasons is my hatred of using the phone.

    • Megan Vosloo says:

      Me too! Somehow I ended up being the front of house at work after it had clearly been understood I was most comfortable at the back of the house, preferably in a separate room with the door closed. I need to get in touch with customers and suppliers every day and I always put the calls off for a dangerous amount of time.

      The funny thing is that, once I’m on the phone, it is NEVER as bad as I thought it was going to be, but that doesn’t stop me procrastinating, no way.

      Also, sometimes time is of the essence and a phone call of less than a minute can solve a problem that would have stretched out over 6-7 emails. So I don’t like them, but calls are the most efficient solution if you need to move quickly.

    • Hye Kan Chu says:

      good luck. I could never handle that type of job

  • Aaron says:

    YES! Bullseye on the whole body language thing. It’s like bringing a knife to a gun fight. I feel totally ill equiped and stripped of vital information. Making the transition from the small talk to the purpose of the call is always tricky as well.

  • Wendy Allen says:

    I let the answer phone get the call, If it is telemarketers they hang up. I’ve trained friends and family to leave a message and I pick up if I can or want to 🙂

  • Megan Vosloo says:

    Hate hate HATE all the small talk. My solution? When the caller inevitably asks how I’m doing, I answer, “Fine thanks and what can I do for YOU?” A few people stumble but most just get straight the point, for which I am forever grateful.

  • Hye Kan Chu says:

    whats a real frustration is not only the suprise phone call but a suprise phone call from a boss that wants you to come into work. So not only are your thoughts interrupted but sometimes the next 8-to 10 hours of your introvert life is interrupted.

  • Mike says:

    The horrible small talk and being trapped by that person on the other end is a horrible feeling. When my phone rings I literally get angry. Thankfully my wife is an extreme extrovert and gets me out and about to meet people! LOL