Friday, October 5, 2012

Phone Anxiety

Okay, so this doesn't really fall under the category of "Big Stuff."  Not at first, anyway.  But sometimes the little stuff pokes at you when it's connected to bigger stuff.

So, I have this weird phobia about making phone calls.  Trivial, right?  Except I can't help asking, "Why?"  What is it about picking up the phone to call someone that kicks me into high avoidance gear?  It's not just "cold calls," those phone calls you'd think would be scary, to people I don't know, or don't know well.  I put off calling close friends, too.  I even put off returning their calls.  I know they want to hear from me.  They called me, right?  So why do I put off calling them?

Is it fear of commitment?  A phone call takes a kind of two-way participation, energy and attention that email doesn't, and so much of modern communication doesn't.

Or maybe it's a fear of rejection, that weird sense of loss and disappointment that happens when the person I'm calling isn't home and I have to leave a message.

Or maybe it's the uncertainty and unpredictability?  I don't know if I'm going to have a conversation with a real person or leave a message with a machine.

Whatever it is, it's positively pathological, and I think it's gotten worse with age.  Too many years of job hunts and phone solicitation and ambushing blind-sides from students' parents have solidified what was once just a minor discomfort into something one step away from phobia.

I'm 46 years old.  I shouldn't be bothered by such a little thing.  I should be able to move through it, right?  Or maybe, when it's something this little, I can let it go and let it be one of those idiosyncracies about me.

The thing is, sometimes this phobia gets in the way of relationships.  My friends may think I don't care about them.  They may get tired of always being the one who initiates contact.  They're wonderful, forgiving people, but still ...

It's a little thing with bigger consequences.  So I guess I'll push through it.


  1. Cindy, thanks for your honesty about phone phobia. When I was a young teen, I developed a horrible speech impediment. It wasn't stuttering, exactly. It was more like trying to speak, but no words came out. Making phone calls to my friends was extremely scary. I especially got stuck on being able to speak up when a word began with the letter "l." Unfortunately, my closest friends were Loretta, Linda, BaLinda and VaLorie. I was doomed to phone failure. It became so bad that I begged my younger sister, Judy, to dial the phone and ask for my friend by her name. Then she'd hand the phone to me, and I would talk. I don't know what caused that speech impediment. It's mostly disappeared from my life. But at times when I begin doubting myself, I've found myself stuttering and working too hard to spit out the words. Then I take a deep breath and slow down. I'm so much better at writing emails than I am talking on the phone.

  2. That is actually a real thing, a form of social anxiety. I have it. It was almost paralyzing when I was pregnant but is normally not so bad. My brother used to pay our younger brother to make calls for him!

    1. I had no idea it was a real thing, but it makes sense now that you say it. Thanks for joining the conversation.