Am I the only one?

This is going to be one of those posts in which I wonder once again… am I the only one?  Today I want to talk about that beast of all beasts, the telephone.  I usually think my incompetence and fear when it comes to using this device is another one of those proofs that I’ve never really grown up or become an adult. It just doesn’t seem a socially acceptable fear to have. I’ve hated the telephone as long as I can remember. The idea of phoning up someone you can’t see and having a conversation honestly makes me feel a bit sick. If I have to do it I’ll plan out in my head what I’m going to say, rehearse and procrastinate everything else in my life until I’ve made the call. Thoughts of the call will circle around my head until I’ve made it when I can get back to thinking about normal life like a sane person again. (this doesn’t count when dealing with close friends, I love talking to them on the phone, I can imagine their faces and know they’ll forgive any social awkwardness.)

Being in a job where I had to answer the phone and make phone calls to people helped my fears a little bit. I’ve managed to improve in answering the phone, after all, the ball is in the other person’s court and in my office I could always pass them onto someone else if I had no idea how to deal with them.  I also find it much easier answering as someone from a company/charity. It’s easier to have a line to say rather than my mumbled attempts at hello. I’d still rather not answer the phone to someone I know even if we have a great face to face relationship unless I know why they are phoning, I fear the awkward how are yous, the not knowing how long the conversation should last for, the lack of social etiquette to help us through this conversation. My face will turn red at fumbled awkward moments and I’ll have to walk around the house for a bit after the call trying to shake off the weirdness. I have issues. I know.

Phoning people is still a massive hurdle to overcome.  I have to work myself up to it, I have to wait until the office was clear, and then worry about it some more until the dreaded moment.  What makes the whole sorry debacle worse is when the person I’m trying to speak to is out- it delays the inevitable, and I have to go through the whole sweaty process again. Give me email any day, let me express myself to strangers in words and I’m happy.

I think I fear the phone so much because it gives so little. All I have is my rather strange voice and my fumbling words, the person can’t see my winsome smile or be amused by my body language, I can’t read the non-verbal signals they are giving telling me it’s ok to keep talking, or that they haven’t a clue what I’m talking about or that I need to repeat myself clearly as they are looking at me with an increasingly puzzled expression on their face. I hate the social awkwardness of the telephone, the not knowing whose turn it is to speak and the randomness of trying to work out how to engage with someone based on their voice, and my voice. I hate that sometimes people think I’m a man on the phone, that I can’t parade my obvious signs of being a woman.  I hate that if we have an awkward goodbye it will stay with me for hours afterwards, I’ll worry if I offended them or if their shortness with me was because of me or because they just saw a giant rabbit eating their plants and had to deal with it straightaway. There are no physical reassurances at the end of a phone call, no smiles to see, no clues to pick up on that all might not be ok with the other person. I’m getting better at this phone business slowly but it doesn’t get easier to phone up random people.

I know I’m a big wuss, my Mum battles with a stammer and has an excellent reason to hate the phone, I have none of that, just a red face, a whole pile of social awkwardness and maybe a love of actual physical face to face interaction.

Am I the only one?

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11 Responses to Am I the only one?

  1. Demelza says:

    No, you’re not the only one!! This is the whole reason I started in my job too, to get over my fear. And yet I still HATE it. Whenever I get an unknown number calling me on my mobile, I get the panics. Weird. You are not alone!! 🙂

  2. Chris B says:

    Me too. I put off calls so long that it becomes a major hassle to deal with. And these are often calls to workmen who need to be employed and are used to being phoned by people asking them to do something for someone else.
    I’m surprised we ever went out anywhere without our children 10-30 years ago – I so hated trying to find someone willing to babysit. Thank God for grandparents, though we ended up having visitors for 3-7 days to enable me to get to the church AGM!
    I’m easily able to phone my sisters, but struggle with dialing numbers for friends who I’d love to meet up with, and who probably think I don’t really like them at all.
    Fro me, the only way to do it is quite early in the morning, before it’s had chance to build up into a panic, wiht those nasy little voices saying ‘they don’t really want to hear from you’ , ‘they’ll obviously be busy right now, leave it 20 minutes’ and ‘no one else in the country could be as daft as you’.
    Cold callers often assume I’m Mr B, and friends or parishioners say ‘Is that Colin?’ The joys of being a 2nd or 3rd alto!
    Still, could be worse, I’d rather struggle with the phone than be the nervous person I used to be, earnestly studying church notice boards to avoiding looking friendless while waiting till we were all ready to go home after church. Now I can usually find something to talk about with whoever else is hanging about…….Or indeed just walk home by myself – it’s less than 5 minutes now, the nearest we’ve ever been.

  3. Sarah (aka cakeandbiscuits) says:

    Yup. Phones are scary things. I think it is the fear that the other person on the end of the phone won’t know who you are or why you are calling (or that you are wasting their time)
    I once talked it through with someone at work – who was deeply wise and told me to not worry about it… but instead to give myself a treat for making particularly scary calls (e.g. once i make this phone call i can have a cup of tea)
    However, in my experience, the person on the other end of the phone is rarely horrible and doesn’t think you are an idiot.
    With practice I have got better at it… (although still will wait for boss to disappear out of office before making certain phone calls). And i will always go find someone and talk to them face to face if i can!
    So, I’m also someone working on the fear of the phone (along with lots of other fears!).
    Perhaps there is a self-help group in here somewhere…

  4. Deb Cantrell says:

    You are definitely not the only one! Sign me up as being someone else who hates the phone. I really only talk to three people, my daughter, my son, and my mom. oh, and occasionally to husbandface and you. Thank goodness for email and texts which have eliminated much of the need for most phone conversations. What is the issue? I really don’t know, but I would SO much rather talk face-to-face. The big decision I made at my 40th birthday was to no longer accept positions where phone calls were part of the job description, (volunteer or otherwise) because I would procrastinate and put them on the absolute bottom of the priority list. I predict that in 5 years, phone conversations will be even more reduced, unless they are scheduled in lieu of meetings. Great topic. Self-help group definitely needed!

  5. Tanya Marlow says:

    Yes! Me too!
    My brief job as a P.A. was SO not a good job fit! I used to look at the phone ringing and hope someone else would get it (it was my job to answer the phone…)

    I physically cannot leave an answerphone message without pausing, saying um, apologising for the phonecall, going off on a random tangent that inevitably mentions sex, more awkward apologising, then at the end saying ‘oh! It’s Tanya by the way…can’t remember if I mentioned…’

    Giving you a phone-phobic high-five!

  6. Kath says:

    Thanks lovely people! So good to know I’m not the only one! Love this confessional 🙂 Sarah I am very impressed you managed to talk to someone about this at work- good work on the vulnerabilty scale! I am always too afraid to admit it for fear of looking like a wally. Seems like lots of people actually find this hard (from my sample of 5 of you!) and I should get over my pride and ask for help!

  7. Nathan says:

    You are completely not alone. I hate phoning people. I assume that I am the last person they want to speak to. And that I’m interrupting something important. And it will all go horribly. And when we hang up, they’re making a face at someone nearby and saying, “Argh! For goodness’ sake…” But being in ministry means I need to intentionally pursue people and take the initiative in relationships for their good, so I’m slowly having to deal with it. Good job God is patient. And that He didn’t wait for me to get in touch with Him!

  8. Alice says:

    Guess why I’m on the Internet? To avoid making a phone call.
    I get a real sweat on if I’ve texted someone (can manage that) and then they RING me! Argh! They know I’m near my phone, but gosh I can’t bear to answer!!

    Is it in any way linked to intro/extrovert? I’m an introvert and think in my head and then speak once I’ve come to a conclusion – chatting on the phone often requires me to think out loud.

    I’m amazed my husband actually married me – our engagement was long-distance and so we spoke on the phone a lot – except I would nod instead of speaking.

    Right, on to make a phone call to a person I’ve never met and who I need to impress! Argh!!!!!

  9. Kath says:

    Good to hear from a bloke Nathan 🙂 Glad God is very patient with us and will give us the strength when we need to make the horrible calls esp when they are personal relationship ones.

    Alice- I was wondering about the introvert/extrovert thing as well, husbandface is def more extroverted than me and has no problem with the phone, but I think Tanya is an extrovert so that challenges the theory… anyone else got any ideas?

  10. helen says:

    Good insight… I would say I’m a phone disliker in the light of this – would probably have listed myself as a full on hater before reading your post, but have never thought about it/worried about it in anywhere near this depth… definately prefer the face to face and have avoided making calls in preference to emails or waiting to see someone but not really felt pankied by it… still good to know there maybe a less annoying reason why a college is sat next to a ringing phone ignoring it! I find myself now in the frustrating position where it’s usually better to call than email for clarity – as if I pharase an email in an english manner and it’s completely misunderstood there is no direct feedback to allow me to explain/clarify, where at least on the phone there is some sort of immediate reply that indicates a need to translate! 🙂

  11. Chris B says:

    Don’t think the extravert intravert things applies – I’m (according to Myers Briggs) almost entirely energised by contact with people, but setting up that contact is the difficulty.
    Lack of practice in childhood?
    Overwhelming cowardice?
    Was thrilled to read everyone’s comments – I’m sure if I met you face to face I wouldn’t think “socially inept so and so” about any of you.
    Incidentally my eldest daughter used to struggle with this too – till she had a school office job for a year which involved all sorts of un-put-offable phone calls. Perhaps I just need to bully myself into getting those scary calls out of the way – then the social ones might seem easier!

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