Calling All Telephobics: 4 Ways To Combat The Fear Of Answering The Phone
You notice it light up out of the corner of your eye. You look away but it starts to vibrate. You glance back at the screen and see who’s calling.
You don’t recognise the number.
No chance you’ll answer it!
You’ll deal with it later.
You come back to your phone a bit later when you’ve got some work and have a bit more time. One missed call: no messages.
You could be suffering from telephobia, that is to say, a phobia of answering the phone. (Take our test to find out more.)
You hate the thought of answering when it’s someone you don’t know or someone you do (but especially when it’s someone you don’t know). You hate feeling loss of control because you don’t know what they want to talk about. You dislike knowing that they can reach you no matter where you are to talk about that thing you wanted to avoid thinking about for a while…
You feel awkward, caught on the back-foot and altogether completely and vehemently opposed to any suggestion that you will answer the phone when it rings.
Well, there are a few, actually…
You’re probably losing business
That phone call you couldn’t bring yourself to answer because it was from an unknown number? That could have been your next big client. But you’ll never know.
80% of first-time callers to your business won’t call back if they can’t get through to someone to speak to when they call. And they won’t leave a message either. Instead, they’ll just call someone else. Not answering the phone when it rings – especially calls from unknown numbers – could be a direct result of lost business.
You probably substitute emails for phone calls
What a waste of time! In order to dodge talking with people over the phone, you do business over email. But it can sometimes take ten emails to reach a decision, make a point or come to a conclusion where a five-minute phone call would suffice. How much time do you spend reading through emails, trying to remember the last thing that was said and pick up your train of thought?
Like it or not, emails add to the headache and waste your valuable time where phone calls can just save you a lot of grief.
People will start to notice
If you never answer the phone first-time, even for customers or clients you know well, you’ll get a reputation. People can find ways around it – they’ll email you their questions for example. But if it’s something urgent and they know they won’t be able to get hold of you, that could be a deal-breaker.
So that’s the problems all listed. You probably knew all that already. Now just to set about overcoming the telephobia itself.
If you really hate the thought of a ringing phone, this could be partially because you’re not in control of the situation. You have no idea how the conversation is going to go, how long it will last, what questions you’ll need to answer…
Perhaps you’re afraid of looking foolish or of not having a legitimate reason to end the call after a certain amount of time.
So, to take back some control of the situation. Face your phone and your phobia by making a phone call. Pick a simple call: maybe order a taxi; call a shop and enquire about their opening hours; phone the taxi firm back and cancel the taxi because you don’t really need a taxi, you just need to use the phone.
Depending on your relationship with your phone, you may already be perfectly comfortable with making calls of this nature because you are in control. In that case, call a close friend or family member. The nature of the call is a bit more obscure – you may have a particular topic in mind but they might take the opportunity to ask you something else (like, “Oh my God, you’ve called me – you never call me! Why did you call me?”)
Whatever it is that would challenge you, if only a little, give it a go. Practice makes perfect so make as many calls as you conceivably can in a week and get to grips with your telephobia.
Incoming call from a well-known client? Why not answer it?
You’ve been getting all her emails anyway – you know what it is she wants to discuss. You may not have all the answers to hand but you can explain that. She’s no more of a monster over the phone than she is in real life.
Take a deep breath. Pause before you answer. Think about what you might want to say and the scenarios that might play out. Are you ready? Make sure you’re ready. (If you weren’t ready you can always hang up and send an email pretending you lost signal but you’ll call back later).
Pretend you’re someone else
Obviously, don’t put on a fake accent and say snootily, “Master Bennet cannot come to the phone right now, madam, as he is previously engaged.” This would be ridiculous and defeat the point.
But placing yourself outside the situation, pretending you’re playing a character, that the person talking on the phone isn’t really you, could help you separate yourself from your anxiety.
Get a call answering service
Seriously, this could help. Especially if you run a business.
If you struggle answering the phone to different people and having to deal with different problems or questions from each of them, why not invest in a call answering service? If you don’t feel you’re ready to start taking phone calls yet, that’s fine, you can always have messages sent to your phone via email and you can call people back later.
If you do feel ready to give it a go, ask for a call transfer service and divert all your calls to go straight to the answering service. Your PAs will be the only ones who can call you, and they’ll be able to brief you on who’s on the other line and what they want.
If you can’t face taking that particular call right now, you don’t have to – your PA will go back to the caller and take a message. If you do feel like taking it, then you can. A call answering service puts you completely in control.
Do you have a telephobia?
How do you deal with it? Do you consciously try to make yourself overcome your anxiety or do you shy away from dealing with it altogether? Do you find it affects the way you do business? Tweet us @allday_PA and share your experiences with the hash tag #Telephobe.