Dial tones and mobile phones

I don’t know about you, but I hate talking on the phone. I wish I was exaggerating. It’s something that at best is a lower-quality conversation than I prefer, and at worst is almost paralyzingly stressful.

Alas, as an adult they are not something that can be avoided. Emerging adulthood means we now get to call to set up various appointments on our own, to make reservations or interact with customer service, to handle professional matters, and often to stay in touch with family.

I’m better about phone calls than I used to be. For a long time, I would avoid calling anytime I could and pretty much only called my grandmama just because — for anyone else, it had better be urgent.

Now, I call (okay, sometimes text) my grandparents on most holidays and sometimes just because we haven’t talked in a little bit, call my mom fairly frequently (I often have random adulting questions), set up all my own appointments and such, have weekly conference calls for work, and call my boyfriend when video chats aren’t an option.

Though they’re still far from my favorite method of communication, I’ve found a few things that have made them less daunting:

  • Put a frame on it. Different mediums of communication have different levels of richness — basically how many layers you’re communicating on at a given time. An email is probably the least rich method, because all you get are words on a screen. In-person is the richest, because you get voice, words, tone, facial expressions and other nonverbals, etc. Phone calls allow for voice, words, and tone but not being face-to-face means tone can be easily misinterpreted.
  • Can you hear me now? The answer is probably sort of. Cell phones are amazing inventions but they aren’t flawless even at full bars. Which means what you’re saying or hearing is often distorted or breaks up, making natural and comfortable conversation more difficult.
  • Know what you’re saying. I am capable of being quite charming, but that skill mostly relies on being in-person. Therefore, I rehearse any phone call that’s more than just a “how’s it going?” conversation ahead of time, usually several times. Props if you’re not the kind of person that needs to do this, but if you’re not this is a super helpful trick. You can always make some notes on talking points or things your need to remember to say/ask as well, and it will help keep you from feeling flustered or sounding awkward.
  • Leave a message. Fun fact, if you don’t leave a voicemail said person will be way less likely to call you back (sometimes exceptions for family and friends). So leave a voicemail — and be sure to mention your name and phone number, and repeat both before you hang up.
  • If someone left you a voicemail, listen to it before you call back. This way, you actually know what they were calling about and they don’t have to repeat themselves. Win-win.
  • Use that weird nice voice your parents use. You don’t have to do the “mmmbye” thing we remember grownups doing from our collective childhood, but do use your extra sweet, polite voice to make up for the fact you don’t get to be so charming in person.
  • Eyes up. I have a horrible tendency to get distracted with other things while I’m on the phone, which results in me not listening or being as involved in the conversation as I ought to be. To help, I often have something I can do mindlessly with my hands or feet (like crocheting or going for a walk) to prevent my mind from wandering so much.

Phone calls don’t have to be awful, even if they can be intimidating. And they are, unfortunately, sometimes necessary, so it’s best to get good at them earlier rather than later.

What helps you with phone calls you don’t want to make? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because turns out I can’t take a picture of my phone with my phone.)

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