For many introverts, a ringing phone is incredibly intrusive.
I’ve passed on doing business with companies simply because they required I make phone calls. When it comes to food delivery, I only choose restaurants that allow me to order online. If my phone rings, the only way I answer is if the call is coming from someone I know — and even then it’s iffy.
I really hate talking on the phone.
I know I’m not the only human who hates it, and there are plenty of us who actually have anxiety about phone calls (it’s called telephonophobia, and it’s real). Hating the phone is also a millennial thing, seeing how we grew up bridging the digital age. Really, disliking phone calls is kind of a known thing; there are entire comics, like this one, dedicated to the subject.
But I think it’s safe to say that many introverts harbor a particular abhorrence for the phone. Why? It starts with the fact that phone calls are so damn intrusive.
Why Introverts Hate Talking on the Phone
As I said, a ringing phone is incredibly intrusive. Like an alarm clock or crying baby, it demands attention RIGHT NOW! When someone calls, we have to switch gears quickly, wrenching our focus away from whatever we were doing — and when you’re deep in thought, like most introverts spend their days, 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 if you’re anything like me, you’re left wondering how much is enough to be polite before moving on to the “real” conversation.
Honestly, introverts may not be the best phone buddies. Generally speaking, we have a tendency to take our time thinking things through before we respond. (That’s also why we’re such good listeners; you’re welcome.) Those long, awkward pauses between thought and spoken word don’t translate well over the phone. And, the more talkative our phone-mate is, the less we’ll be able to say, and eventually, we may get bored and give up trying to keep the conversation alive.
Non-verbal communication (a.k.a. body language) is remarkably important to conversation. Introverts rely heavily on observation skills, and being unable to see our conversation partner can add another layer of frustration. (Zoom calls aren’t much better; here’s why.) On the phone, we can’t examine the other person’s 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.
Finally, focusing the whirlwind mind of an introvert on the intangible nature of telephone discourse can be incredibly difficult. There’s always a lot going on in our heads (thanks, overthinking), and piling a disembodied conversation on top can be too much sensory input for our liking. It’s so exhausting it may lead us to retreat 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 they deserve.
How to Talk on the Phone With (Some) Ease
With all that said, there are times when talking on the phone is unavoidable, as much as we introverts may hate it. I wish we lived in a world where every appointment could be made online, and Grandma learned to text. So, regrettably, sometimes even we introverts have to bite the bullet and make a phone call.
Fortunately, there are a handful of ways to make the process (a little) less painful. Here’s what works for me:
- 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 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 on 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 or coloring, cleaning the house, brushing your pet, or assembling a jigsaw puzzle. Get a headset or pair of bluetooth headphones so you can move around freely during the call. This also helps get rid of phone anxiety. 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, 15 minutes of downtime afterward — whatever floats your boat!
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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:
- Switch your ringtone to something calming or fun, or turn it off completely.
- 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.
- When giving your number to a friend, let them know that you are unlikely to answer a phone call and your preferred method of communication is texting.
- 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, 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 occasionally. Let’s just hope telemarketers don’t advance along with our technology.