I know I am not the only one, I once heard a DJ mention a hatred of talking on the phone. I have a feeling it might have been Fearne Cotton but don’t quote me on that. For as long as I can remember making and answering calls have always been something I tried to avoid. Still living at home this wasn’t a problem, mum would make calls for me. I would always find a way to worm my way out of it. As I got a bit older I had to call the odd person, family and friends. I didn’t mind too much calling them but I would alway text, WhatsApp, Facebook message first.
When I worked for Tesco, I didn’t have to use the phone at all to begin with. I worked on checkouts and I had no problem interacting with the public face to face. Later in my career at Tesco I was trained in a new area, which constantly broke. As one of the main people operating the area I had to handle calling the tech support team. I think by this point I was super confident and comfortable in my role this wasn’t such a big deal. I was a little nervous, but having done it a couple of times I knew what to expect and was fine. As my confidence grew in that role, I felt so completely comfortable doing anything at work. I even got to a stage where I would make announcements on the tannoy.
It wasn’t until I left Tesco that my fear of the phone returned. It came back with a vengeance. I worked at a bank for a short time in a job that made me feel incredible anxious. This general feeling of anxiety towards the role made the task of making calls much harder. I was nervous to answer the phone to customers and staff. I would sit on the desk, busy trying to get my training done and be thinking please don’t ring”. When it did, my heart would race and I would have like a little hot flush. I would always hesitate in the hope someone else would answer.
A part of my role was to call customers on the list and offer them additional services. Although they claimed these were not sales calls, they were and I did not want to do them. I kept putting it off, to a point were they said, if you don’t do this we could let you go.
So I gave my first call a go. I was absolutely bricking it, literally shaking. I went into a quiet booth with the branch manager, he talked me through the call and I dialled. The call was ok, the person on the other end was ok, but clearly didn’t want any other services. I hated every second of it and as soon as I hung up the phone I burst into tears. I’m not sure why I cried. I had to take 5 minutes to calm down as I was embarrassed I cried in front of my boss.
A New Job
The relief I felt when I left that job was insane. When I started my new role I was nervous at the prospect of having to be on the phone again. I managed to avoid making and answering calls where possible, clinging on to the “I’m new” excuse like mad. It wasn’t until I realised I was happy and comfortable in the job and more confident in my abilities, that I was able to jump in and call the clients.
Only 2 months into a role I had no experience in that I started managing accounts. My first account was a bridging loans company, with an owner who I swear was bipolar. One minut they would completely understand and be grateful of my suggestions and improvements to their new website. The next minute they would be threatening to leave because their company was not on the first page of Google.
I had started SEO from scratch and this is something that can take months to build up. The loan industry was also particularly competitive. It had been explained to them they would not be on page one in 6 months. I actually managed to get some competitive keywords nothing to page 5 in 5 months. I was quite please with this but they didn’t understand. Talking to this guy was nerve racking but the more I did it the more I got used to it.
A Turning Point
The more clients I gained, the more calls I had to do. The more confident in my skills, and ability to explain SEO (which is no easy task), the easier making calls became. 8 months into the role and looking to move departments, I was racing to answer the phone. Now over 2 years working for the company my bosses have noticed such a change in me. In particular they have mentioned how great I am now on the phone compared to my nervous start.
I have learned over the last couple of years that, for me, it was about being happy and comfortable and confident in general at work. It wasn’t so much a fear of calling people, it was an uncomfortable anxiety and lack of confidence. The happier, more comfortable and confident I became, the easier it was to overcome phone call nerves. I still get the odd nerves before I make some calls, often when it is someone completely new to me. However I just take an extra minute before the call. I make sure I am as prepared as possible and remember its just talking to a person. Worst case you can always hang up on them.
Something to take away
So I hope that by sharing my story, of overcoming this little life hurdle, helps with any struggle you might be facing. Always try to look at the bigger picture. I really thought I couldn’t get another job where calling was expected of me. I thought that I couldn’t do it, that the anxiety and nerves would always be there. However what I realised was that I am perfectly capable of making and answering phone calls. My issue was I was not in a role that was right for me. Also practice does make perfect. The more you throw yourself into situations that make you feel uncomfortable the easier they become.