Anxiety and Phone Calls

I don’t like talking on the phone. There are two reasons for this, I’ll get one out of the way quickly because it is less important than the other.

A key component for me when conversing with people is being able to see them. When you consider that I am posting this to a blog and I’m fairly active online (and have been since the late 80s in some form or another) it seems counter-intuitive. But, in my brain, this is writing, which is different from talking. I can write, and people write back, and if I get a particularly heated or spiky response from someone, I’m not on the spot to immediately reply. I can take my time and consider the position and give a thoughtful rebuttal if it is warranted. When I talk to people, how they react, in their face and body, to the things being said supply great information for keeping from kicking over too many hornet’s nests, and also to encourage conversation if the response is positive. But when on the phone, all that drops away, and I can’t see a person rolling their eyes or gritting their teeth or fidgeting with their fingers. They might be doing those things, but I can’t see them. I don’t like this.

But the larger reason why I don’t like to talk on the phone is almost a post traumatic stress response. For years, for more than two decades, I have worked in some form or another in a customer service related position. These days I do much more programming than support, but being at a smaller company I still have to occasionally answer the phone. Because my jobs have almost always leaned toward support instead of service the people I talk to usually are having a problem and not just asking a question. And more often than not they are angry about the problem. I can do my best to try to defuse their anger, but it doesn’t always work. So the bulk of my experience using phones is to have someone yell at me.

These days, when I need to make a phone call, I pick up the phone and before I start dialing I can feel my heart speed up. My foot will start to tap or my leg start to twitch. I might even feel my face flush with heat and break into a little sweat. I know, I know, that the majority of the people I speak to on the phone these days are not going to yell at me, but I’ve been conditioned. I cannot stop my physiological and psychological response.

It’s a terrible thing that I should probably talk to someone about so I can get past it, but healthcare in this country… I won’t go there, it makes me angrier than having to talk on the phone. Anyway, so that’s why, if you need me, you should email me, or text me, or catch me on Facebook, or just drop by the house and we’ll play some board games. All of these options are better than calling me on the phone.

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