Can you remember the last time you were sick? Maybe you had the flu, a fever or a cough. And can you remember how being sick made every part of your life just a little more difficult?
Talking to people was more difficult. Focusing was more difficult. Even going to sleep probably felt a lot more difficult.
Well, that’s very similar to the experience of having social anxiety. It’s like walking around sick, being unable to do things “normal” people can do easily and naturally.
For example, how about the fear of talking on the phone? Back when I had really bad social anxiety, picking up the phone would make me absolutely terrified.
If I had to make a phone call, then I would procrastinate it until the very last minute.
In my head, I would repeat and rehearse what I was going to say.
My heart would start beating faster and faster as I imagined dialing the number.
I would sweat nervously… Think about that! Sweating nervously…in my own house…just thinking of making a phone call!
What a way to live.
And when I finally forced myself to make the call (basically when I had no other choice), then I would inevitably sound incredibly awkward talking on the phone. My words wouldn’t come out of my mouth clearly. My voice was so much different in a bad way. And I sounded nervous as hell.
By the end, I was relieved to get it over with and hang up.
Hanging up. That’s the only good part, isn’t it?
You get to end your misery with a click and finally stop the torture. And you’re sure the other person is relieved they can also stop talking to this awkward, nervous weirdo too.
Social Anxiety: A Fading Nightmare
To be honest, it’s a little hard for me to remember that experience.
It’s a little hard for me to remember that hearing the phone ring used to cause instant anxiety for me, like hearing a fire alarm go off inside your pocket. I would freeze, look at my phone in terror, and be unsure what to do about it.
But it’s been a few years now since I basically cured my social anxiety. And those memories of how difficult normal things used to be really are starting to fade.
Now I pick up the phone like it’s nothing. Whether I’m calling a friend, a coworker or a company to resolve some problem…I just do it. And it’s almost unusual to think this could have ever been so difficult for me.
So I’ve been thinking lately:
WHY Do Socially Anxious People Have A Fear Of Talking On The Phone?
Why does this simple task cause you so much stress, misery and suffering? Why does it even often feel much harder than talking to the same person in real life?
Well, here’s my best answer:
Talking on the phone makes you hyper-aware of every little part of what you say and how you say it (your voice).
When you are talking on the phone, there is no place for you to focus on except for… yourself. Your attention is tightly focused on yourself…and you know the other person is also closely listening to what you’re saying.
Think of self consciousness like a mirror. And when you are talking to someone on the phone, there’s nowhere to look but right into that mirror. So you become very very aware of every little part of your behavior, and what the other person might think about it.
This increased self consciousness multiplies the self critical voice inside your head that points out how nervous you sound, how you shouldn’t have said that, how you’re making a bad impression, and so on.
So a fear of talking on the phone is really a fear of the increased scrutiny (critical observation) you will face. Not just from the other person, but also from yourself.
That’s why it feels so uncomfortable and difficult for someone like you who has social anxiety or more severe shyness.
The Fix? Overcome The Deeper Issues
There are some articles online that talk about “tips for talking on the phone.” These tips are usually pretty basic, superficial, and unhelpful to someone who has social anxiety. They’ll tell you to do things like “fake it ’til you make it” without addressing your deeper issues.
The real fix is to overcome your social anxiety itself. And you can’t do this through facing your fears using exposure alone. You need to unwire the anxiety and fear response in your brain…and then you will be able to talk on the phone easily.
The best first step for you is to click on the box at the bottom of this article and enter your email. You will then receive my best free articles and video tips right to your email as part of my shyness and social anxiety newsletter. These tips will help you feel less shy, nervous and awkward around people and become better at knowing what to say in conversations.
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And who knows? Maybe one day this fear of talking on the phone will also feel like a fading nightmare to you too.