Telephobia

Curing Telephobia: Part I.

Phone work isn’t my cup of tea. I don’t like phone calls – neither to get them nor make them. However, I think it is time to declare myself cured of Telephobia.

I now get my phone calls done and pick up the phone when it rings with no severe hesitance. I feel that I am competent enough on the phone. I might even be friendly. It is just an act I play, like a hat I take on. I still hate most phone calls, but still. It works.

 

Red old style telephone box

 
Why phones are bad

Phone calls are by their very nature sudden and intrusive. They always interrupt something else and cause a sudden change in context, coming out of nowhere. I don’t like that, and I don’t like that I don’t know and can’t see the context of the person who talks. It makes it hard to grasp what the person means (especially with noise on the line) and easy to make mistakes.

I don’t like to make calls for these reasons in reverse. I assume that I interrupt what people are into when I call them, and that it irritates them. I find it hard to believe that anyone would like to get a phone call. But I do know that it’s a fallacy on my side – that I expect people to be xenophobic and inflexible on the phone just because I am.

Which they might be… if they have Telephobia.

 

Cartoon about telephobia

Telephobia

Cartoon by Pete Davison – Illustration for his post Telephobia.

 
Telephobia is an unofficial sub-diagnosis under Social Anxiety that means ‘fear or dread of phone calls’. It usually causes poor to hopeless phone manners due to irrational panic reactions.

The condition interferes with work performance, business opportunities and job search and creates considerable stress (whenever the phone rings or one has to make a call:-)

In my case, refusal to call up relevant persons and ask relevant questions, and nervousness when I did call up, has caused me to:

  1. Miss out on important information and be less competent at work
  2. Miss out on chances to make a good impression on relevant persons, like potential employers and customers
  3. Fail phone screenings for jobs (miserably)

so I knew for a while that I HAVE to overcome my aversion against phone talks.

 
Telephobia, general overview

I did an Internet search on Telephobia for this post and found that fear and/or dread of phone talks is quite common (didn’t see any statistics about it, though). Common reasons to hate phones include:

  • Fear of being judged by other
  • Phone calls are intrusive
  • Lack of social information – it is hard to ‘read’ people’s reaction on the phone and adjust accordingly
  • Trouble hearing/understanding what is being said on the phone
  • Not knowing what to say
  • The pressure to keep a phone conversation going
  • Time pressure

Typical telephobic situations include having to make phone calls at work, calling specific persons (work or personal acquaintances), having to make phone calls in the presence of others, pick up a phone call without knowing who it is, or pick up a phone call knowing it is an intrusive/talkative person.

Generally, it involves the feeling of terror when a phone ring suddenly tears a peaceful day apart. It can trigger a range of typical social anxiety reactions – behavioural and physical symptoms:

  • Intense worry before telephobic phone calls – can last for days, weeks or months
  • Excessive self-consciousness and fear that you’ll act in ways that will embarrass or humiliate yourself
  • Fear that others will notice that you’re nervous
  • Avoidance of phones to a degree that limits activities and disrupt work and social life
  • Pounding heart
  • Dizziness
  • Trembling
  • Shaky and unsteady voice
  • Sweating
  • Numbness
  • Dry mouth
  • Muteness – mind ‘blanking out’

Below quotes are all from blog posts about how it feels to suffer from Telephobia – they are all worth reading for insight into the topic:

 

I hate receiving calls because I don’t have adequate time to prepare myself. I’m minding my own business, playing a video game, reading, watching television, doing homework, when suddenly with a piercing shriek I am thrust head-long into an unanticipated conversation. I find myself at the wrong end of the element of surprise. This is why, when you first get me on the phone, I will tend to stammer a lot; I have been thrust out of bed into battlefield conditions and am still trying to get my wits about me.

Zach on Telephobia

There is no escape. The cell phone can reach you anywhere. (…) Most of the time I have to mentally prepare myself to make or receive certain phone calls. Cell phone calls are kind of like a sneak attack.

Elizabeth on Telephobia.

And all I can think of is how idiotic I sound on the phone and that I really do not want to be doing this and “can’t I just e-mail you?”

Nikki on Telephobia

I feel the symptoms so strongly that I sometimes will just shut down in my mind and become mute.

(…)

After I manage to talk to someone on the phone. I worry about how I sounded to them. I will rehash the situation over and over again in my mind; sometimes regretting what I did or did not do during the whole thing.

Telephobia progress on the blog Surviving Reality about recovery from social anxiety.

Put down phone. Go and do something less stressful, like giving haircuts with a chainsaw.

Pete Davison on Telephobia.

 
Another good source of personal insights is forum threads, such as the Social Anxiety Support forum. Additional information can be found in literature about social anxiety and on websites about sales-psychology.

 

x

 
 
In my next post, I will write about my own work and job search experiences with Telephobia, and in the final post on this topic about strategies for curing Telephobia.

This will include the experience that inspired me to write about telephobia: namely how an International freelance job earlier this month showed me that I can/have overcome my telephobic barriers and am able to make competent professional phone calls whether I like to do it or not.

 

An intrusive uninvited guest, unwelcome and unpleasant,
Imposed upon my peaceful rest a painful piercing present.
A stranger in a distant land who merely typed a number
Crumpled space beneath his hand and yanked me from my slumber.

 
The telephone, my nemesis! Spawn of Alex Bell,
And the 1880 genesis connecting earth and hell.
“Quit waiting for the postman. I’ve invented a solution.
I call it Instant Interruption: Communications Revolution.”

 
A couple of verses from the poem Telephobia by Bret Victor.

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15 thoughts on “Telephobia

  1. Pingback: #oneaday Day 701: Deadline | I'm Not Doctor Who

  2. maxmichel

    Phones certainly have become a big part of our every-day life. Especially since a phone no longer is just a phone. As an opposite to telephobia, there could also be a term for the addicts; perhaps teleholics.

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    1. Mados

      That is a good one! and yes, you are right … Many young people, having grown up with personal cell phones always in their pocket, seems addicted to phones… and I don’t think there is a good catchy term for the disorder yet. Teleholic is perfect!

      I wonder if it is possible to trademark a new mental disorder? so that everybody who gets diagnosed with it in the future will have to pay royalties;-)

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  3. Shelley

    It wasn’t always this way. I’m not sure where or how it came to be, but I’m almost sorry I have a phone. My husband called me today as I was in the middle of completing a work project. He had time, I didn’t. I was trying to come across as though I had all the time in the world and still try to avoid sounding testy. I think it’s all about taking back control from a world too controlled by phones.

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  4. Emily

    I finally remembered to come back and subscribe 🙂

    You have explained this so well. I can call my parents with no issue, and I can make certain other calls with hesitation but not adamant (and what feels like involuntary) refusal, but then there are those *other* calls…

    Receiving a phone call is horrible horrible horrible. It fills me with absolute dread. And making the types of calls I have a lot of difficulty with feels downright impossible. It has been a year since the deadline for me to call the IRS about a tax issue which resulted in me being wrongly charged a large sum of money. I still haven’t called because I just can’t.

    I also have “mailophobia”.

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  5. brittany220

    Great post! I’m not a big fan of the phone either and would much prefer emailing someone or talking to them in person. I confronted my phone phobia this year too and it helped, though it didn’t change my views on not liking the phone really. At times it was nice talking with people on the phone, but making the initial call and possibly “interrupting” like you say was not easy. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. Mados

      Thank you Brittany.

      I like your Shyness Project – have read some of the posts, they are very good and the project is a great idea. I have a post in the pipe about social anxiety & Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and will certainly link to your project.

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  6. E (The Third Glance)

    I’m terribly telephobic as well – always have been. It’s manageable most of the time, and I am able to control myself enough to answer or make a phone call, but that doesn’t stop the shaking, stomachache, sweating, awfulness that comes with it. Thanks for the post – I had no idea it was actually something.

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    1. Mados

      Thank you for your comment E. Those reactions sound indeed very telephobic.

      It has surprised me to find out how common it is, and that in fact many have it much worse than me without writing posts about Telephobia…

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  7. Lori Degtiarev

    I enjoyed this timely article! I hope it was okay to share on FB. Thank you for putting all the effort into an informative article that reached my heart.

    I would not say I am entirely telephobic, but I confess that a phone ringing in my house doses me with adrenaline. I despise telemarketing and charity solicitations, yet they are people doing their jobs and trying to make a living. So I try to be kind.

    Few things rankle me more than the intrusiveness of unwanted phone calls. Our home is private and the telephone is almost a personal pocket sized extension of that privacy.

    I feel bombarded daily by advertisements and media. Blaring commercials, blinking adds and pop ups, brrrr. The ugly part of an unwanted call is the distraction, how it ripps you from what you are doing. I’m glad to see I am not alone!

    Excellent post Mados!

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    1. Mados

      Thank you for your very nice feedback Lori!

      Yes unwanted phone calls are horribly intrusive… I think Bret Victor’s poem above describes the terror of a ringing phone amusingly well.

      Good point with the phone being a pocket sized privacy extension…:-) That’s maybe why it feels like a violation when telecom providers abuse their power and send marketing SMS’ into their subscribers’ mobile phones… they are in fact invading private space.

      Thanks for sharing the post on FB; and no I don’t mind. My blog is anonymous anyway, that is enough privacy protection for these things.

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  8. Pingback: The Versatile Blogger Award « The Third Glance

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