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Hate Talking on the Phone? Phone Anxiety Facts

It's common to hate talking on the phone and have phone anxiety, a form of social anxiety. What causes phone anxiety and how can we deal with it and move on?

Do you hate the phone (or, more specifically, talking on the phone) or experience phone anxiety? If so, you’re not alone. I loathe talking on the phone, and I’m always surprised by the people I encounter who confess the same thing. Aversion to the phone exists on a spectrum, ranging from a simple dislike to a much more complex reaction involving full-blown anxiety, with all of its physical and emotional symptoms. Continue reading to learn some facts about phone anxiety as well as ways to deal with hating talking on the phone. 

Why Do People Hate Talking on the Phone?

A hate of talking on the phone, or phone anxiety, is related to social anxiety. The fears and worries involved in talking on the phone are similar to those of social anxiety. An underlying reason that people are anxious about talking on the phone is a fear of being judged negatively, of sounding “stupid” or inept.

Phone anxiety, like other forms of social anxiety, is often about the person on the other end of the line. Phone anxiety often occurs because of fear of judgement. Will the call recipient be bothered and thus annoyed? Worries about saying the wrong thing or being unable to explain something clearly, resulting in a negative judgment, can prevent someone from using the phone. Another thing that can cause phone anxiety is the dread of hearing the word “no.” Many calls involve making a request, and hearing “no,” can feel like a stinging rejection, increasing social anxiety.

Another reason that talking on the phone is anxiety-provoking is that it’s rather artificial; indeed, it’s contrary to the nature of communication people are wired for. Communication is largely visual. Although exact figures vary, it’s commonly estimated that up to 90 percent of our communication with each other is non-verbal. The phone, unfortunately, is 100 percent verbal.

Dr. Jeff Thompson refers to the three C’s of nonverbal communication: context (the who, what, where, when, and why of the conversation), clusters (the collection of gestures, expressions, eye movement, and other nonverbal forms of communication), and congruence (do someone’s words match his or her nonverbal messages?). Over the phone, the only thing we know is the context. The other two, equally important, concepts are nonexistent. When we can’t rely on something we need, anxiety can skyrocket. Because this anxiety involves other people, social anxiety is activated.

Lessen Your Hate of Talking on the Phone or Phone Anxiety

There are formal treatments that you can engage in, ideally with a therapist or psychologist, that will help you not just tolerate but overcome your phone anxiety. As with most fears and phobias, common treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and gradual exposure therapy.

There are things you can do on your own, too. If you want to be able to talk on the phone despite hating it, try these approaches:

  • Reflect. This is about your comfort zone. What is your comfort zone, and why does the phone take you out of it? What, specifically, do you hate about talking on the phone? Taking your vague hatred and making it specific can help you target the one or two things that are causing the problem.
  • Make a checklist. Checklists are useful tools for helping people stay focused on the task at hand. List the purpose of your call, your main points, and how you want to portray yourself. Steer clear of listing what you don’t want. Keeping the emphasis positive will direct your brain.
  • Replace mind reading. Mind reading is an automatic negative thought that is a culprit in causing or increasing social anxiety. It’s very common for people who hate the phone to jump to conclusions about what the person at the other end is thinking. Thanks to social anxiety, we imagine all sorts of horrible judgments arising from the way we are mishandling the call. To avoid this, focus on the person’s words rather than what you think their thoughts are and use distractions. Hold an object during the call, something grounding that will pull you out of your head.
  • Hang up and move on. When the call ends, don’t just hang up the phone. Sever the ties in your mind, too. Walk away, turn away, or otherwise do something to symbolize that the call is over. When your mind starts fretting over your perceived mistakes, hang up on it by switching your active attention to something else.

It’s okay to hate talking on the phone. It’s understandable to have phone anxiety, a form of social anxiety. For your wellbeing, use these facts about phone anxiety to take measures to deal with it so you can say what you need to say and then hang up.

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of four critically-acclaimed, award-winning novels about mental health challenges as well as a self-help book on acceptance and commitment therapy. She speaks nationally about mental health, and she has a curriculum for middle and high schools. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

4 thoughts on “Hate Talking on the Phone? Phone Anxiety Facts”

  1. Thank you for this article. It’s the first one I have seen on this subject and I appreciate your tips. I enjoy talking on the phone with family and friends. What I dread are the tele-marketers and unknown callers who always interrupt dinner or other important family moments. Call display helps somewhat but sometimes I just need to turn the ringer off. I feel badly about this, but feel I have no choice on bad days. If it is important, I think they’ll leave a message. I do wish I didn’t get so freaked out by the phone ringing, though.

    1. Hi Tammy,
      I’m glad this was helpful. It’s okay to turn the ringer off. That’s a great way to manage the disruptive phone message. I actually do the same thing. And you’re right. If it’s important, the caller will leave a message. Think of this as just another form of setting mentally healthy boundaries.

  2. I’m so happy to see a post addressing this come up. It’s something that many people simply don’t consider or even, kind of laugh off, but like social anxiety (excellent connection made) for those who feel it, it is very real. I think the tips and suggestions you provide are realistic and feel applicable. I love the idea of making a checklist, and also to hang up and move on. Don’t cling to the call.

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