Bad news, anxiety, cranky family members — there are endless reasons to avoid making phone calls. The hand-held convenience of instant messaging, email, and text has given us another way to avoid the person-to-person contact that comes with picking up the phone and actually talking to a real, live, responding, human being.
There are some messages that just cannot — must not — be delivered by email or text message. Bad news, breaking up, making contact for job prospects, interacting with specific or perspective clients, and even asking how your mom is doing: these things all fall into the category of “you just gotta pick up the damn phone.”
Trust me on this. I have had experience doing this poorly. *cough, breakup text, cough*
Having worked in politics, a profession all about people, I also have had experience doing this well. Sometimes, you just have to make a call you don’t want to.
Coping with your phone discomfort by avoiding it is never in your best interest. According to Psychology Today “Avoidance coping creates stress and anxiety, and ravages self-confidence. It's is a major factor that differentiates people who have common psychological problems (e.g., depression, anxiety, and/or eating disorders) vs. those who don’t.”
Plus, if you’re a parent, modeling good phone skills is an important teachable for the little listening ears at home. My 18-month-old can already imitate me on the phone. It scares me somethin’ fierce.
So, how do you jump the annoying hurdle of making phone calls? All it takes is a little preparation, some “jumping in,” followed by a pat on the back:
Prepare for your call by writing down some key information: whom you are calling, what you are calling about, and what “key messages” you want to deliver.
Key messages do not need to be written like a speech. In fact, bullet notes will serve you best. For example:
Our company is looking to host a joint event with you. Are you interested?
We promised my husband’s parents we would have Christmas with them this year.
I’m not able to make the minimum payment right now. Is there any way you can help me better manage this account?
Some light preparation will make you feel more in-control of the situation. You will be less likely to sidetrack, or forget your reason for calling in a moment of fluster.
Grab the Nike motto and “Just Do It.” Overthinking a phone call can lead you to further excuses not to make it.
So, choose a time in your day when you have limited distractions. Find a quiet location, and put your “tools” in front of you. Your tools being:
A pen and paper, or/and
Your computer, or/and
Some people like to stand and pace while on the phone, while others prefer to sit and take notes. Do what makes you the most comfortable!
Start the call with the right attitude. In most cases smiling while the line is ringing is a great pre-call strategy: fake it till ya make it.
If your reason for calling is bad news, deliver it right away. Small talk rarely lubricates a challenging conversation. Rip off that Band-Aid.
PAT ON THE BACK
You’re done! You are such an urban warrior. Now you get to reinforce your success by reminding yourself of the positive outcomes of the call: Did you get what you asked for? Did you make a new contact? Did you handle a tough situation with grace and poise?
You can even pump yourself up by watching this classic Blondie video:
No matter what actually happened on the phone, you need to recognize your development of a dying skill. Modern technology has enabled our avoidance of person-to-person contact. We are more and more afraid to actually speak to a human being.
When I was a teenager, I hated making phone calls to the point that I would often attempt to enlist my mother to do the dirty work (the shame!). My mom was clever enough to see my discomfort and refuse, saying, “What’s the worst that could happen? They say NO?” They aren’t going to beat you…”
I’ve made many phone calls in my life, and mom has been right. So far, no beatings.
Also, very few NOs.