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How to Get Better at Making Phone Calls
If the mere thought of making a phone call causes you to clam up, you’re not alone.
Interestingly, many of us can’t stand going even an hour without our phones but use them mainly for texting, messaging or browsing the internet. When it comes to using them for making a call, that’s a nerve-wracking option.
Psychologists Offer Reasons People Hate Making Phone Calls
Psychologists have investigated why so many people resist talking on the phone and have come up with some explanations, such as:
Lack of Non-Verbal Cues: You don’t have the extra information provided by non-verbal cues when talking on the phone. If the person on the other end pauses, you can’t look at his or her gaze, posture or expression to try and gauge why the conversation stopped.
Having to Think on Your Feet: The luxury of taking several minutes to compose your thoughts as you might when writing an email or text just isn’t there during a phone call.
Fear of Judgement: Many people who get anxious on the phone feel like they’re being judged. They think if they stammer, misspeak or sound nervous, the other individual will think less of them.
Even if you try to avoid making calls as much as possible, there are times when you can’t avoid it — such as if you’re asked to participate in a phone interview or need to talk to your grandmother who doesn't understand how to text. Luckily, there are some easy and practical strategies to try that could help you conquer your fear and dislike of phone conversations — here are six of them.
1. Prepare Thoroughly
You may not realize the things you do before a phone call happens can drastically influence how it goes. Preparation is a critical factor that could make you feel more comfortable on the phone. One beneficial thing about this method of communication is that people can’t see if you’re reading from a piece of paper with notes on it.
Take time to jot down an outline of the main things you want to cover. That way, you won’t forget crucial information and have the best chance of a positive outcome. Also, put a pen and notepad by the phone. You may need to write things down during the conversation, and it’s better not to have to rely on memory.
2. Make an If-Then Plan to Stop Avoiding Using the Phone
Many people use If-Then plans to transform bad habits into good ones. First, come up with a goal, such as, “I will use the phone for at least 50 percent of my work-related communications.”
Next, think of a situation that might make you stray from that objective. For example, maybe you get anxious while talking to your boss and prefer only to email her.
In that case, an opportunity to communicate with your boss might make you tempted to use email instead. So, the “If” part of this exercise is, “If I have to respond to my boss…”
Finally, plan what you’ll do if that previous situation arises — that’s the “Then” part. You might conclude “… then I’ll call her on the phone unless she specifically says email is her preference.”
By going through this process, you’re naturally planning what you’ll do when potentially scary situations come up and preparing to deal with them.
3. Do a Visualization Exercise Before Picking Up the Phone
Visualization is a technique people often use to make cold calls confidently. Before you even have your hand on the phone, close your eyes and think of yourself going through each part of the conversation and tackling each one with ease.
Imagine delivering your dialogue without issues and being able to answer all the questions the other person brings up without ever feeling stumped.
Doing that should help relieve your stress. By visualizing things going well, you’ll likely find it easier to remember you’re more than capable of handling the call.
4. Ask Questions to Show Your Curiosity
Asking questions in response to the other person could add meaning to your conversations and make phone calls less awkward. It’s also an easy way to convey you genuinely care about what the other person says and what’s happening in his or her life.
After trying this tip a few times, you'll probably discover it's easier than you thought to keep the conversation flowing. For example, if a person reveals they have had a busy week due to getting ready for a vacation, you can ask about the destination and why they chose to go there.
5. Take a Deep Breath and Smile, Then Dial
As we said earlier, what you do just before touching the dial pad on your phone could make the call go better than expected. First, take a deep breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth. As you exhale, think of the tension leaving your body.
Then, think of something that invariably makes you smile, whether it’s spending time with your best friend or scratching your loveable dog behind the ears. After picturing that situation in your mind for several seconds, dial the number. Those two things should improve your state of mind, making you more relaxed and cheerful before talking to the other person.
6. Don't Expect to Have All the Answers Immediately
Situations will almost certainly arise when the person on the other end of the line asks you a question, and you aren’t sure of the answer. Alternatively, the individual may want you to commit to doing something, but you need to check with a colleague or partner first to verify the specifics of previously made plans.
In those instances, it's okay to admit that you'll have to get back to the person with a response. Just say, "I'll need to ask my manager about that to make sure I give you the correct information.” or “Let me double-check my schedule for that day first. I don’t want to set false expectations.”
When giving those kinds of answers, always let the person know when you’ll call them back. If you anticipate it taking a while to get the information you need, you could say, I’ll make sure to get back to you by the end of the day tomorrow.” If it won’t take long, you could offer to call the individual back within 15 minutes.
Fear of the unknown often makes people hesitate on the phone, but this tip helps you overcome it. Plus, by letting the other person know when to expect your response, you’re easing any disappointment that may have occurred since you didn’t have an immediate answer.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Develop your interpersonal skills with our series of eBooks. Learn about and improve your communication skills, tackle conflict resolution, mediate in difficult situations, and develop your emotional intelligence.
Become a Pro at Talking on the Phone
Aside from trying these six tips, remember the old saying that practice makes perfect — it’s undoubtedly true when making phone calls. The more you do it, the easier it’ll become. Before long, you may wonder why you ever steered clear of talking on the phone at all.
About the Author
Kayla Matthews is a productivity writer and self-improvement blogger. You can read more work from Kayla on MakeUseOf, VentureBeat, TinyBuddha and Inc.com. To support Kayla further, subscribe to her productivity newsletter.