Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Confessions of a Phone Phobic

I have always been uncomfortable using the phone. Just ask people who know me well. It is definitely not my strength in communicating. I much prefer text and face-to-face communication. With text, I have an easily retrievable record, and with face-to-face I can read body language and context, and respond appropriately. I suspect it is a control issue. But perhaps also a deficit in the auditory discrimination modality.

A second confession: I get very annoyed with phone calls in which others are trying to sell me something or asking me to answer questions in a survey. Major irritation.

Last night for 3 hours, on my 6oth year on this planet, I decided to start to face this fear in a marathon session in which I did to others what I disliked having done to myself. (Definitely a sin of commission and obvious breaking of the golden rule). Because of my strong support for a Presidential candidate, I found myself immersed in an activity in which I was extremely uncomfortable. I was stressed. Heck, I would have been more comfortable doing a major speech naked in a full stadium, which is a scary image for many reasons.

My volunteer job was to take a list of local voters that contained party affiliation and phone numbers . . . and to make calls to take a short survey, discuss issues, encourage involvement and early voting in the local effort.

I made 62 cold calls, and in the end, after getting many answering machines and rejections from people like me who get upset with such calls, I talked with a dozen people (which I was told at the beginning was the norm). As the evening went on, I found myself listening to how other callers in the background were approaching phone skills and then incorporating them into my own script. I started finding ways to be the most effective, what worked and what didn't. Total immersion . . . constructivism at its best. I left exhausted, still uneasy, but with a better understanding of others - both the callers and the called.

As a baby-boomer, maybe it is time to buy that Jitterbug! :)

What is your favorite form of communication? How do you feel about being called to discuss issues?

How Do You Cure Phone Phobia

Phone Phobia

Confessions of a Phone Phobic

Telephone Etiquette Guide

Phone Etiquette

Photo Credit: Eldon Hathaway at the Bryant Pond Phone Company. Eldon owed the last crank phone company in the country (1983) just up the road from where I live . . . and was a great drummer as well! The switchboard was in his home and was staffed by the family. For more info, see here.

Audio Version of "Confessions of a Phone Phobic"


SJ said...

Cold calling parents has to be my least favorite part of my job. Let me send them a letter or an email any day, but please don't make me call them!

Ed Latham said...

I have a hard time calling relatives never mind total strangers. I have no love for the phone as a form of communication tool anyway although I can respect it's place in our culture. In a way, the availability of the phone has separated us while bringing others together. Locally, my son will not go to the park to hang out with friends, but he will spend tons of hours trying to get on the phone to talk with these same friends. Why is it that so many would rather talk on the phone instead of face to face meetings? The fact that he is talking to his girlfriend on the phone rather than taking the bike ride to go visit raises some other questions.

The fact that people make a living at calling people has always intrigued me and I have always wondered at the personalities that enjoy that line of work. If there is anyone out there that does work that involves calling strangers all day and you love your job, could you share with us the aspects of your job that make it so enjoyable? Jim shared his percentage of success and my first thought was that we see that level of success only in Baseball and deem it a success. Are there other jobs out there where such low levels of success are acceptable?