I recently read an article about a lady who “charges $480 an hour to help Gen Z and millennial workers overcome their fear of talking on the phone”.
That’s an eye-catching headline, but on reflection I’m not surprised that this is a problem.
I’m slightly too old to be a millennial, so I grew up in a world of landlines – but even in that world phone calls were uncomfortable. As a teenager, I remember being very reluctant to phone my friends – because I was worried that their parents would pick up, and somehow talking to their parents scared me. My fear of placing phone calls was so bad that I had to write down a script, and practice what I was going to say before I made the call.
The advent of cell phones made things a bit easier, but I still had a hard time making phone calls, even as a young adult.
And then I joined the Metaswitch customer support team, and suddenly my whole job was talking on the phone to telecoms people about telephone calls! Ouch…
It turns out shock therapy works, and it didn’t take long before my phobia became manageable. I learned that most people aren’t that scary, and that talking on the phone can be a really good way to solve a problem and make a friend at the same time.
Fast forward to today, and one of our core values at Award Consulting is “pick up the phone”. This mantra is important to us because we believe that talking with our clients helps solve problems faster and allows us to build better relationships with the people we serve – helping us to “be part of the team” (another of our core values).
Of course the younger millennials (and Gen Z-ers) have it harder than I did, because they’ve grown up communicating with a series of emoticons – and have been able to avoid phone calls for much longer.
But the good news is that it’s possible to overcome a phobia of phones – so don’t give up hope.
- If you’re someone who’s nervous of using the phone, remember that you can learn a lot when talking to someone live – whether that’s on the phone or on video. If it’s scary to call someone spontaneously, try scheduling a call (or a video conference), to avoid that initial confusion about who’s calling and why.
- If you work with someone who’s phone-a-phobic, you may find that they’re happier meeting in-person or receiving a phone call rather than placing one. It sounds odd, but it was true for me, and may improve how you communicate together.
And although phones are fantastic, they’re not the only option.
- IM/SMS is great for simple, urgent communications;
- phone/video is great for complex or difficult discussions;
- email is great for sharing complex ideas that may need to be referred to later.
We can all benefit from the variety of methods of communication available today – and we will do better if we choose the right option. Phone calls are no longer the only method of instant communication, but thankfully for those of us work in the industry, two way phone calls are still hugely important, and most people would be more effective in their jobs if they used the phone a little more.