Ever since the pandemic began last year, I’ve answered more phone calls than I can count. Though I’ve now gotten used to talking to a screen, there was a time when phone calls gave me extreme anxiety. Maybe it’s something about their face-less, detached nature, but I find that I prefer Zoom or FaceTime over normal phone calls. Whatever the reason for your phone call anxiety, I’m going to give you some concrete tips that you can use to conquer your fears. Whether you’re preparing for an interview or catching up with an old friend, you got this!
Make sure you’re prepared
The easiest, most surefire way to get over your phone call anxiety is to make sure you’re prepared for it. Think about it this way: you wouldn’t take an exam without studying, right?
Let’s say you’ve secured a phone interview for a summer internship. (First of all, congrats on making it that far in the application process! You’re almost at the finish line.) So, how exactly do you prepare for the call?
Firstly, you should make sure that you know everything there is to know about the position to which you’re applying. Maybe also do some research on the company or organization that offers the internship program. If you can, it might also be helpful to reach out to your interviewer via email beforehand. This last step might make you feel more comfortable with them, as you have at least established an online rapport with each other.
Also, it’s important to note that it’s okay if you don’t know everything! It’s actually a good idea to show up to your interview prepared with questions. If anything, it shows that you did your homework and want to make sure that you’ve got your facts straight.
Of course, this is just one example of a stressful phone call situation. You might be thinking to yourself, “I’m feeling confident about my professional phone call abilities! My issue is that I get nervous talking to distant friends and family over the phone.”
If that’s the case, I think a lot of the tips that are useful when doing a phone interview are still applicable in this type of social situation. That being said, how can you “prepare” for a social call? It’s pretty simple, actually. Try to recall three or four facts about the person you’ll be speaking with. This will come in handy if there’s an awkward lull in the conversation. You’ll at least have something to ask them about!
Additionally, when in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask questions. People love to talk about themselves and their experiences, so don’t worry if you find yourself listening more than talking.
Create a cheat sheet
But, what if you can’t remember all the great things you want to say and/or ask? An easy solution to combat forgetfulness is to create a “cheat sheet.”
To create one, simply jot down your most salient points and questions on a slip of paper. If you find yourself freezing up mid-convo, don’t fret. Just look down at your cheat sheet and allow it to guide you through the rest of the conversation.
Feel free to also take notes as the other person (whether that person is an interviewer or third cousin) is speaking so that you don’t lose track of their train of thought. This will come in handy if you want to refer back to something they said earlier on in the conversation.
Practice makes perfect
Though it sounds corny, the old mantra “practice makes perfect” is extremely relevant here. If you want to get over your phone call anxiety, perhaps the best thing you can do is practice talking on the phone.
Ask a trusted friend to practice a nerve-wracking phone call scenario with you! If you’re preparing for an interview, ask the friend to roleplay as the interviewer and hit you with their toughest questions. Being prepared for the most difficult questions will help you feel even more secure in your abilities. You got this!
Don’t have a friend to practice with? Or just feeling a little embarrassed about asking for help? No problem! Something I like to do if I’m preparing for a Zoom presentation is record myself speaking on the Voice Memos app on my phone. This method will also help you prepare for your next phone call. Practice reciting answers to commonly asked questions.
For instance, let’s say you anticipate an interviewer asking you the oft-dreaded question: “Why do you want to work here?” After doing some research and creating your cheat sheet, try reading your answer aloud and recording it. Then, play it back and find areas that you could improve on. Is your answer too long? Too short? Do you find yourself stumbling over your words?
Take note of your strengths and weaknesses and practice reciting your responses until you feel good about your ability to speak with ease and confidence.
Fake it till you make it
Even if you’ve done all the previous steps to prepare for a phone call, you might still find yourself tensing up in the moments leading up to the conversation. So what should you do then?
Fake it till you make it, baby. If you trick yourself into thinking you are confident and self-assured, then, sure enough, you will actually begin to act as such. Try repeating affirmations to yourself in a mirror. Close your eyes and envision a successful call. Remind yourself of how hard you’ve worked to prepare for this moment. Reassure yourself that you are strong and smart.
If you complete all these steps, I’m sure you’ll almost immediately start to feel more ready to face any call head-on.
Just keep breathing
How could I forget the most important step of all? Don’t forget to breathe. When we are tense or anxious, we often start to take very shallow, shaky breaths. This can actually be damaging to your phone call “performance,” because you may not be allowing enough oxygen into your brain! So, take a deep breath, relax your body, and get ready to ace that call.
Try, try, try again
So, the call didn’t go exactly as planned? That’s okay! Thankfully, we live in an age where electronic communication dominates our lives. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to improve your skills. And the fact that you clicked on this means you’re already on the path to doing just that. You’re making strides to better yourself and achieve all of your goals. I’m proud of you! Just keep trying and eventually, you’ll laugh at the fact that you were ever nervous about talking on the phone to begin with.
Finally, don’t forget to treat yourself! You’ve been working hard to improve your skills, and you deserve to reward yourself and take a bit of a break.
Tell yourself that when that stressful work call or phone interview is over, you’ll reward yourself with some self-care. Plan on watching a movie you love, spending some time with family and friends, or eating your favorite food. Having something to look forward to at the end of a call might just be the push you need to get through it.
After all, what you’re doing is no easy feat! Minh Phan, a sophomore at Williams College, spoke to me about the unique difficulty of acing a phone call interview: “I communicate better when I see faces than [when I] just hear a voice.” So, just take baby steps and don’t forget to pat yourself on the back from time to time!
Remember that having a bit of phone call anxiety is totally normal, and more people experience it than you might think. But with these tips (and maybe a few others), you’ll surely be able to conquer it.