Our Best Tips For Overcoming Phone Call Anxiety

We're a pretty text-first society at the moment, and that works just fine for most of us. Between emails, office chat room services, and other technological features, even working doesn't have to involve phone calls or a lot of face-to-face or one-on-one communication. That's not a bad thing, but if you have telephone anxiety it can be a great way to hide from calls. And if you want to overcome phone call anxiety, it might seem even harder because of the fact that people don't call as often nowadays.

Again, maybe that's a good thing if you do have telephone anxiety. But what if you need to call customer service about a significant refund or you have an important job interview? You'll want to make sure your anxiety around phone calls isn't going to impair those things. But now that you're able to get by with just texts, you'll need a new way to overcome your phone call anxiety. It's scary and a bit nerve-wracking, but if you stick with these tips, you should knock out that form of social anxiety.

Have a general script and plan

It might sound silly, and it might sound impersonal, but having a script ready for whatever phone call you have to make is actually a big help. You don't have to think about it as anything wild or elaborate. But thinking ahead to what you need to talk about during your call and how you'll approach certain topics will make it seem less daunting. Darling Magazine suggested that thinking ahead — and having a script or bullet points — are helpful, especially in the case of a business or more formal call.

You don't want to stick to the script too strictly, because it can come off as robotic or inauthentic. And you want to make sure you're also having a conversation, asking them questions when appropriate, or responding to anything the other person might have said. So don't get too married to your notes. However, scripts can be like a safety blanket, and they'll help you stay on task if it's an important or work matter. Knowing and preparing for the call in such a way can take some of the anxiety off your chest because you have the comfort of a plan.

Practice makes perfect

While the whole point of these tips is to help you if you can't answer phones without sweating up a storm or having a near panic attack, there's just one thing. We hate to break it to you, but you're going to have to answer phones in order to get better at calls. It's not ideal, but if you want to overcome something, practicing answering and making calls is going to be a really helpful tool.

The Conversation suggested that just "[picking] up the phone" can help ease phone call anxiety. The more you talk on the phone and make it a more commonplace thing in your life, the less it will feel like an anxiety-inducing task. Obviously, we live in a texting-heavy world right now, where shooting someone a text and emailing is way easier and faster than getting on the phone. So if you have to dial a family member or pick up a work-related call (and don't speak on the phone often) it's going to seem foreign and make you uncomfortable. 

Recruit your partner or any friends you are comfortable with to call you more often, or schedule little phone chats with them. This can go hand-in-hand with the script. You can also try asking someone you trust (like your spouse or a parent) to rehearse a work phone call or help with a particularly important telephone conversation you might have coming up.

Trick your brain about your phone anxiety

It's hard to calm down if you're nervous. You're basically asking your brain (and body) to do a 180 and slow down when it's racing. So instead of trying to calm yourself — which might not work very well if you're extremely anxious — tell yourself that your nerves are actually excitement. By recontextualizing the feeling, you might be able to trick your brain into believing it. At least that's what Smith, a receptionist and intake service for businesses, suggests based on some good evidence.

Smith writes that instead of trying to slow your heart down and calm your anxiety, you can lean into it. Try to hype yourself up, getting yourself excited for the call. Excitement is a "high-arousal" state — the same as anxiety — so you won't have to do much to mimic those positive high-arousal feelings, because you're already there. Their hypothesis comes from a study by the American Physiological Association that looked at people who were able to perform better by altering their anxiety into excitement. This can be as simple as saying "I'm excited" out loud or writing "Get excited" in a journal.

Think of answering phones as exposure therapy

As we stated above, the only way to get better about your phone habits or perceptions is to actively answer calls and make them. And as challenging as it can be for those who have phone anxiety, giving yourself your own "exposure therapy" by taking calls will help in the long run. Make goals for yourself and start small. Work your way up to bigger goals until you feel your phone call anxiety slipping away.

And think of "cognitive restructuring," which Alexander Queen, a clinical psychologist with a special interest in anxiety disorders, told The Cut. The technique is similar to the "tricking your brain" tip above. However, instead of trying to alter how your anxiety is interpreted in your brain, you think of the call in different ways. One example: if you're worried about bothering the person on the other line, have a conversation with yourself where you make it clear that they wouldn't answer if they didn't want to. And if it comes to performance anxiety or making a fool of yourself, just think about the fact that the other person probably talks to tons of people who also stumble over their words. Mistakes and blunders happen all the time, and not just to you. So if you try to remind yourself of that, you might feel better about the endeavor.

Don't think of the other person as judging you

You may experience anxiety from a number of outside sources, like people, coworkers, friends, and more — whether in person, on the phone, or online. Your brain may ruminate on what the other person is thinking of you, what you're saying, and how you're conducting yourself. One-on-one phone calls can make this worse by taking away any other distractions or social cues that would otherwise ease anxiety.

"We don't like being evaluated by other people," Jeremy Jamieson, a psychology professor at the University of Rochester told The Cut. "All of our survival as humans depends on other people — we're very social creatures — so anytime we put ourselves out there to be evaluated, that produces a lot of stress for us." He says that may explain why many people don't like public speaking or get stage fright. Giving anyone the chance to judge you is terrifying. 

Alison Papadakis, a clinical psychology professor, said that if you have social anxiety or severe phone call anxiety, odds are you're going to be worrying about how you come across to the person on the other line. And in doing so, you're going to be so worried and focused on yourself that it'll be hard to conduct an easy, flowing conversation.

Be kind to yourself

If your phone call anxiety is particularly severe, try not to beat yourself up if you decide not to pick up the phone. It can be a daunting task, especially if it's for work, school, or something else that's really important to you. As stated above, take it slow and gradually work toward getting more comfortable with calls.

Smith writes that it's okay to try non-vocal forms of communication if that's what you need at the moment. It's more important to stay in communication consistently than it is to force a phone call that isn't happening. They recommend a virtual receptionist for calls coming your way and opting for email, text, or chat options when available. It's not a failure if you want to utilize one of these options. And even if you're working toward developing this skill, being kind to yourself and giving yourself grace is the best way to move toward less phone anxiety in the future.