Phone-Phobia: we are talking about actual ‘talking’, not texting, gaming, iming or twittering.
Have you ever tried to get a teen on the phone? It is impossible. They will text you right back or email you, but they won’t pick up. I know, because I am the same way. I will do anything to get out of a phone call, I will write you an ebook, before having a chit chat. This is not good, I know, sometimes the personal connection is important, maybe even crucial to forming partnerships. Yet, I cannot stop the feeling of dread, anxiety, even paranoia when I hear my phone ring.
Here are some facts and ways to approach a phone-loather, whether it is your kid, best friend or you.
1) Warn, warn, warn
I try to warn people about my phobia of long drawn-out conversations. If you are a phone-hater, you have to warn those calling or wanting to reach you in multiple ways. I try the following:
“Would love to chit chat, but I am terrible on the phone, can we try to work through it via email?”
“Sure, we can talk, but just a little warning, I am a writer at heart, and am not very good on the phone.”
On my message:
“I am really bad at checking messages, so only leave one if you are patient and really have to, otherwise I will probably respond within 20 minutes if you email me, my email address is ______.”
2) It is Not Personal
I really do not mean to be rude, although I know it can be. Neither do my teen clients and interns who also hate the phone mean to offend. It has nothing to do with you, we are not avoiding you or avoiding working with you, we just do not have the skills to enjoy and utilize the phone.
3) There is a Difference
…between not liking the phone and not being good at it. If you have ever called someone’s house and their teen picks up, it often goes something like this:
“Hi, is Nancy there please?”
“Can I speak with her?”
“Uhh. Who are you?”
“Hi, is this Billy? This Sarah, Kat’s mom from across the street?”
“How are you?”
“Great, I was calling your mom about the meeting tomorrow.”
“So, maybe I can talk to her?”
“She’s not here.”
“Oh, OK, of course, do you know when she will be back?”
“Uh huh, can I leave a message for her?”
“Um, there is not paper here.”
“Ok, why don’t I just call back and leave a message?”
“Ok, thanks Billy.”
I actually teach many of the teens I work with how to be polite on the phone. It is a skill and many teens, because they are constantly online, do not have much practice.
4) Fear of Inefficiency
This is the main reason I do not like the phone. I totally understand the need to network and talk and just schmooze. But, somehow the phone feels rampantly inefficient. I live my life making things the most efficient I possibly can. I used to study in the shower by putting my flashcards in Ziplocs. Multitasking is a state of being for myself and most members of my generation (not saying this is a good thing), but it can shed some insight into why we so avoid the phone. There is a fine balance between using the phone to get to know another person, and using it to spitball the same ideas back and forth.
I often find that it takes down my anxiety about the phone when I have an idea of what to talk about. For people who hate the phone you should ask the other person for a list of the things you will be talking about so you can think about them ahead of time. This keeps the call efficient and productive while you still have ear to ear time. If you have someone who is avoiding your calls, sending them an agenda can help get them to call you faster. Something like (on a voicemail or email) “Hi, It’s Mike, I just wanted to talk to you about 3 things, the schedule for Friday, the handout and your tech needs for the presentation, it should not be more than 10-15 minutes.” Then make sure to respect that list and the time you proposed.
6) Types of Listeners
I am a visual learner, I love to work alone and I express myself through writing. This is the opposite of the phone. It is not bad or worse, just different. When I work with people on projects, I ask them what kind of worker they are and usually address right away my phone phobia. If they are an audio learner and need to collaborate, then we strike a compromise before we both get aggravated.
In person is the best, but for working with partners, it can be important to have that phone time. If you have phone phobia, try to let people know you have this problem and set agendas with them. If you are frustrated by a coworker or friend who is anti-phone, try to strike a compromise and realize it is not a personal avoidance of you.
This post is dedicated to Tara Paterson, whom I always owe a phone call to! I am sorry Tara, I promise I will call you back and it has nothing to do with you!
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