Anxiety and the Telephone

I think as long as the telephone has been in existence, there have been people experiencing some kind of social anxiety about talking to someone they can’t see in person. It seems irrational, right? But it doesn’t make it any easier to tell yourself that your anxious feelings about talking on the phone are irrational. It only makes you feel worse. Everyone else seemingly has no problem talking to you by phone, why should your stomach be in knots, and you be sweating, and wishing the other person would just hang up so you can go about your day?

Anxiety is a lot more common than you would suppose, and talking on the phone is one of many different types of social anxiety. You may be fine with talking by phone, but have difficulty face to face with others.  You may be fine one on one, but in a group, your heart may be pounding out of your chest to actually say something in front of everyone else.  

At the root of social anxiety is generally a fear of humiliation. It is the fear that someone will see through our anxiety and find something negative about ourselves and broadcast that to others. Fear may include feelings of anticipating being taken advantage of somehow, or being exposed as a fraud, or misjudged, or misunderstood, or abused emotionally. At the root of this fear is our lack of feeling in control of a social situation, and our lack of confidence in our own skills for detecting danger and protecting ourselves from it.

If you talk it out with someone, you may see that you are really not in control of anything or anyone else at all. You may be able to learn some skills to handle difficult conversations, for example learn how to say “no” or “let’s agree to disagree” or “let me think about that” or “well, I need to go, so I’ll talk about this with you later.” Definitely skills help alleviate anxiety to some degree.

Another pro-tip for anxiety is to simply accept that you feel anxious, and that the other person may or may not be aware of that. Accept the fact you may sound awkward. Accept the fact that others may be aggressive on the phone, and you also have the option to hang up anytime you wish. Accept the fact that you cannot control conversations, but you can set boundaries. Decide what your boundaries need to be and maintain them (no swearing at me, no insulting me, I have no need to answer your personal questions, etc). No matter what your boundaries are, acceptance is key to alleviating anxiety. Accept yourself and others without wishing otherwise.

If you’d like to talk through your anxiety with a counselor please feel free to call! I promise you our staff are understanding and will go easy on your anxiety!

Kathy Bruner, LCMHC
Clinical Director, Mt. Grove Counseling


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