When I was growing up I had a slightly neurotic Border Collie, nothing particularly unusual there, but she had one particular source of anxiety that I would later come to strongly empathise with, my dog was scared of the telephone. Whenever the phone rang she would immediately jump up and flee the room. I never knew what it was about the sound of the phone ringing that she hated so much; maybe it was the same thing that made her afraid of cameras, balloons, Christmas crackers…
It is largely unproblematic for a dog to be phone phobic but for a human it is much more debilitating. Thankfully I am not as strangely conditioned as my dog, I don’t run for the hills when the phone rings, but I’m sure my heart rate increases a fair few notches and I begin to feel that familiar sense of anxiety and dread. It’s not terrifying and insurmountable as say, riding down an escalator (shudder) but talking on the phone to almost everyone makes me anxious as hell.
I have worked in several organisations where I was required to both receive and make calls on a daily basis. This has always been a challenge for me and it doesn’t seem to matter how many calls I participate in, I still find it difficult. Aside from my working life, like everyone, I am also required to make calls in relation to other issues: health appointments, banking, making the damn internet work. I find these calls equally difficult.
While all interactions on the phone are a challenge, some are much worse than others.
Today I had to face my fear head-on and make a phone call I really would rather have avoided. There were many things about the call which made it particularly difficult for me, it was a call regarding work, and it involved speaking to management and worst of all it involved me asserting myself.
I decided to prepare myself before making the call by writing some notes to organise my thoughts and to act as prompts should I get confused or lost. I then clarified in my mind exactly what it was I wanted to communicate, what I wanted out of the call and what I would be willing to agree to. In other words, I established my hard lines.
Like many things in life, the thought of something is often worse than the reality.
I made the call this afternoon and it went just fine. I said what I had intended to say and I maintained my boundaries. Having made the call I felt like I’d achieved a satisfactory resolution to my problem and this generated a sense of lightness and freedom.
I don’t think that this will change my intense dislike of talking on the phone but it demonstrates that I am capable of making a challenging call and discussing difficult things. I am capable of facing my fears.