Sometimes I feel unbearably awkward. I don’t hate people… I’m not even always bad with people. I do, however, have some pretty intense anxiety about new people and situations. Today when my coworker asked me if I was comfortable making so calls, I said yes. Inside I had a mini panic attack.
One of my least favorite things is to call people on the phone. This fear manifested when I was younger and I’ve never really gotten over it. I don’t call for take-out… I don’t answer my phone if I don’t recognize a number. It frequently takes me nearly 20 minutes to get myself sorted out a dial a number.
As a journalism and communications student, however, phone calls can be really beneficial. As much as I hate it, many times calls are way more efficient than email. After spending all morning calling nursing homes for information to populate a website I’m working on, I’ve come up with some tips to make phone calls more bearable.
These tips have to do with business calls, although they could be helpful for any sort of information-seeking call (inquiring about an internship or position etc). Phone interviews are a whole other ballgame and I’ll probably have another post about those sometime…
1. WRITE A SCRIPT. Writing out what you are going to say might sound dorky, but it helps me immensely. Not only is the act calming in itself, but it helps you avoid that awkward pause that so often happens when someone finally answers the phone.
Scripting out what you want to say also means you’ll probably sound more professional and older (if you’re a young sounding person like me, that’s helpful). It’s good to read your script out loud a couple of times before starting. When you read it, make sure that you don’t sound like a robot or a telemarketer. If it’s appropriate to pause and wait for some sort of response, do so.
2. BREATHE AND TAKE YOUR TIME. You want to make sure that you are speaking clearly and professionally. If you’re awkward like me, you’ll be really uncomfortable having to repeat yourself over and over.
You’re going to naturally speak quickly and maybe even quietly because you are nervous, so be conscious of that. Usually all it takes is a mental reminder to make yourself sound natural, and you’re good to go. You’ll get better with practice, too, so keep calling people (but only when necessary… I’m not saying to just call business people for funsies… that’s silly).
3. THINK THROUGH POSSIBLE RESPONSES. If you have some sort of inquiry or request, chances are there are only a couple possible answers. One of the possibilities is voicemail too, so be prepared for that. In general, just think through what you will do or say in response to each possible response. Don’t make yourself crazy thinking through endless possibilities, though. That’s bad.
This also helps me put my call in perspective. I will either get a yes or no to my request. Someone will answer my question, transfer me, or say they can’t answer. None of these things will be the end of the world.
4. KNOW YOUR NUMBER. This seems silly, but if you get a voicemail or if someone says they’ll call you back, you might forget your number. Have it written down. This is really important if you are calling from a work phone or a phone that is not your usual. You’ll sound more professional if you can just rattle the number off and you’ll feel more confident as well.
5. DOUBLE CHECK THE NUMBER YOU’RE CALLING. I hate calling the wrong number and it makes me really nervous every time. I want to make sure I’m going to get the person I’m trying to call. I double, triple check the number I’m calling as a result. I look it up, write it down, double check it, type it in the phone, and check it again.
This might be a little more obsessive than you want/need personally, but the act of double checking a number can be really calming, especially if you are calling somewhere for the first time.
Phone calls are essential to many jobs/ careers. If they make you anxious, remember these tips. It’s really not that bad once you get going. The key is confidence, and if you’re not confident, find a way to fake it until you are.