For many people, talking on the phone is a particularly complex interaction. In addition, many people today show a preference for using other types of communication channels than the telephone, such as instant messaging applications.
This preference for messages and avoidance of making calls does not necessarily mean that you have an anxiety problem, although in some cases the two things may be related. If this aversion to the phone is accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, sweating, palpitations or other signs of anxiety, it may be social phobia. So Let’s see how to overcome the fear of talking on the phone.
Features of fear of talking on the phone
Fear of talking on the phone, in its most severe form, is recognized as a branch of social anxiety disorder. People with social anxiety disorder have excruciating panic in different social situations where they may feel judged, these anxiety-triggering situations include phone calls.
The fear of talking on the phone it is not something new derived from new communication behaviors, although these have often masked the problemand affected different people in all countries at different times.
The specific fear of talking on the phone has a specific term in psychology: telophobia, and in this case is part of the specific phobias.
A specific phobia is defined as an intense and persistent pathological fear that appears in the face of concrete situations. In the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) like other social phobias related to public speaking, it would be in the category “non-generalized social phobia”.
However, the pathological fear of talking on the phone is often presented as a symptom of generalized social phobia. This disorder is a more severe disorder and manifests as extreme anxiety about different social situations, which can range from public speaking, to avoiding using public restrooms, to driving or shopping. Any situation where the person with social phobia feels that they can be valued in some way can be a trigger for anxiety and all of its symptoms.
In some situations, anxiety about talking on the phone can stem from disorders other than an anxiety disorder, such as speech disorders; A person who suffers from a stutter may not feel comfortable talking on the phone and avoid a call at all costs. On the other hand, there are times when this anxiety or phobia may stem from irrational beliefs, such as the negative health consequences of exposure to electromagnetic waves.
Whatever their origin, the inability to speak on the phone is directly linked to mental health, causing anxiety and avoidance behaviors.
In its milder forms, it is common for many people to feel uncomfortable or a little anxious about this type of social interaction.
What to do to overcome the fear of the telephone?
The most effective way to combat the fear of calling, as in other situations, is to expose yourself. Exposure therapy is a technique commonly used by psychotherapists to help people overcome their fears and anxieties, by breaking the pattern of fear and avoidance caused by the object or situation. This creates a safe environment for the patient in which he can “expose” him to the things he fears and avoids. This exposure helps reduce fear and decrease avoidance.
In this case, you should consider the phone call as the exhibit, the more calls you make, the safer you will feel to make another one.
The cognitive restructuring technique can also be used, which consists of the patient, with the help of the therapist, identifying and questioning the thoughts that cause his anxious behavior. These are replaced with more appropriate thoughts to reduce or eliminate the emotional disturbance.
In this case, the goal is to strategically change the way we think about the call, and any thoughts about feeling judged, or being intrusive, also minimize fear, make mistakes, or make a mistake, we would not be the last, nor the first.
The adaptation strategy can be gradual, we can start by making calls with people we know and are aware of our problem, or with strangers whom we will not see again; Some people find it less difficult to talk to customer service and make formal, structured calls. The difficulty can also be related to the duration, we can start with short calls of no more than three minutes and gradually increase the time. The key is to start small and work from the lowest anxiety level to the highest.
Why do calls generate anxiety?
Phone calls have a number of characteristics that make them things that can cause fear and anxiety in some people. Knowing them is important to face this fear.
1. They are difficult to interpret
Phone calls are part of social interactions. The difference with other types of face-to-face communication is that telephone calls are non-verbal communication, and it is difficult to interpret what the other is thinking. As we know, a significant percentage of communication is non-verbal, according to Albert Mehrabian, the communication responsible for transmitting states and attitudes would occupy 65% of the communication between two people.
In phone calls there is only the voice, how do we know if someone is joking with us or criticizing us if we don’t have a smile that accompanies the sentence? Not only is it a question of perception, because in the case of the call there can also be interference with the sound, it is also a question of interpretation. On a call, it’s harder to catch what the other person is saying, but it’s also harder to know what the other person thinks of what we’re saying.
2. Telephone interaction requires immediate responses
If we think about it, text messages also have all the flaws of nonverbal communication, but they don’t generate as much anxiety, is a matter of time. Phone calls require instant response. For many people, talking on the phone is a particularly complex interaction, you have to think on the fly and you have to respond to what someone is saying to you at the same time, unlike texting where you have time to think. In the phone call, every word counts, you can take back what was said, but don’t delete it. Silences can be misinterpreted by anxious people.
3. Calls are intrusive
The problem of intrusion is linked to the problem of immediacy. While with a message we assume that the person will answer us when they want, with a call you feel like you are interrupting and you have to find the time to do it. People who are afraid to talk on the phone may feel like they are disturbing them even before they make the call.
4. In the call we are the center of attention
On the one hand, we may feel that the focus is more on ourselves or the people around us than on the person we are talking to on the phone, in case we are calling in front of other people. During a phone call, we cannot draw visual attention to the person we are talking to.
However, the most common is that the anxiety of talking on the phone is not the responsibility of the people around us, since in this case it would be enough to call from a private place. As with other types of social phobias, the problem is to feel judged by our interlocutor.
We don’t like to be evaluated by other people. It’s here the same anxiety we feel when we speak in public, have a conversation with a superior, or face some other situation that requires evaluation or that we think requires it, because we are constantly evaluating situations and being evaluated. People who are afraid to talk on the phone feel that they may not be able to thrive in this situation and are afraid of ending up blocking or stuttering.
People with social anxiety tend to pay close attention to themselves and their behaviors and they obsessively make sure they don’t do something they feel embarrassed about. This self-centered behavior takes a toll on the conversation, making it harder if I focus on me and what’s happening to me, instead of what you’re asking me, which will obviously cost me more to answer.
5. We’re not used to making calls
The simplest explanation for the difficulty for us to call is that we are not used to it. This is the simplest reason, but it’s not bad. As we have already said, telephone conversations have been replaced by other types of communication, especially among the youngest. The data shows that types of pathologies involving fear of talking on the phone have increased dramatically from baby boomers to millennials.
Part of the problem with a call is simply inexperience. The SMS codes and the meaning of the emoticons are known, but the code for the telephone conversation is unknown. It seems unimportant, but it would be putting yourself in the situation of an old person who uses Instagram for the first time, he does not know how to do it, same for the phone call. You have to know how to greet, when it’s your turn to speak, synthesize information or express a specific feeling only with the voice. As we see, it is something more complex than we think when we integrate it, like Instagram.