Effective Strategies for Professionals to Overcome Phone Anxiety

Woman Wearing Glasses Talking on a Cell Phone

Phone calls are a key part of any professional environment, from law offices and HVAC companies to healthcare and IT. Your business needs phone calls to communicate with customers, clients and patients alike. When it feels like a lot is riding on these calls, you might feel anxiety over picking up the phone. This nervousness is more common than you may think, but with these tips for overcoming phone anxiety, you can reduce phone stress, enhance customer happiness and drive your business forward.

Telephonophobia Symptoms and Effects

Telephonophobia, or the fear of holding conversations over the phone, is not the same as feeling dislike toward phone calls. Fear of talking on the phone results in feelings of anxiety that encourage someone to limit phone conversations or avoid them altogether. Common signs of telephonophobia include:

  • Call avoidance
  • Delaying answering the phone
  • Obsessive thoughts before the call about what to say
  • Obsessive thoughts following a call questioning what was said
  • Intense worry about embarrassment over the phone

Telephonophobia can manifest as various physical symptoms as well, such as increased heart rate, nausea, shortness of breath and shaking while taking a phone call. 

The Psychological Roots of Phone Anxiety

The root of phone anxiety can come from various places. Typical psychological roots of this fear include:

  • Lack of nonverbal cues: Communication experts have estimated that 70% of communication is nonverbal, meaning factors like eye contact, posture and gestures are doing the majority of the work in communication. Phone calls are missing a lot of these nonverbal cues, so most phone conversations rely on words and tone of voice. For people with phone anxiety, these communication gaps may make it feel more challenging to understand the people they’re talking to over the phone and make it harder to connect. 
  • Pressure to think quickly: Phone calls require people to think on their feet more often. Plus, there’s no opportunity to delete words like there is in an email or text message. People with telephonophobia may feel that every word comes with risk, adding more pressure to the conversation. This high-risk feeling is often heightened in more important conversations, like delivering bad news or talking with a superior. 
Phone Anxiety and Fears
  • Fear of feeling judged: People who are self-conscious about their ability to communicate or the sound of their voice may feel that phone calls are a judgmental environment. This fear of being judged often pairs with the lack of nonverbal cues that may otherwise indicate a person is friendly and enjoying the conversation. 
  • Struggling to feel present: A phone call demands both participants to be present in order to respond to the other. Someone with racing thoughts and who struggles to focus in the moment might find it challenging to listen to someone on the other line. As a result, this person may have to ask the other to repeat themselves and unintentionally make their conversation partner feel unimportant or unheard. 
  • Texting often: If you mostly text in your daily life, you may not have a lot of practice talking on the phone. When engaging in this activity that’s not as familiar, it’s easy to feel unprepared.

Phone Anxiety in Different Professions

Given the many psychological roots of phone anxiety, many professionals experience it in their fields. 

  • Healthcare: Medical providers have to call clients about sensitive issues, which can heighten anxiety. You might question what the best delivery is for hard news and feel unprepared for the reaction you may get. 
  • Small businesses: Small businesses may lack the resources for consistency in phone conversations, like scripts and outlines for different types of calls. As a result, small business professionals may feel unprepared for calls, and their anxiety peaks as a result. 
  • Technical services: Technical service providers often have to deal with a wide range of customer support needs, and phone calls can be very involved depending on the issue at hand. These complex conversations can be even more challenging if you struggle to feel present or worry about how well your client will understand your explanations.
  • Legal: Like the healthcare industry, legal service providers may have to deliver bad news. Informing clients about these issues with a need to think quickly and without nonverbal cues can increase anxiety. 

Overcome Phone Anxiety Before the Call

When you know you have to make a call, or a client plans on calling at a certain time, you have the chance to prepare yourself. 

Rely on Scripts and Outlines

If the pressure to think quickly on a phone call is too much, preparing for the call before it happens can be helpful. While you can’t always expect a call, many professionals know when they have to reach out to a client. Take these planned calls as an opportunity to practice pre-call preparation.

A helpful practice for call preparation is creating a call outline or script to follow. In these notes, you can add the client’s name as a reminder and create a list of items you’d like to touch on during your conversation. You can make your script as broad or specific as you like.

Practice Breathing and Mindfulness

Mindful breathing involves grounding yourself in the present moment and calming your nervous system when you feel stressed or anxious. According to a study conducted on university students, regular mindfulness practice can help reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Phone anxiety may disrupt your breathing and make it challenging to stay focused on the call. Practicing breathing strategies before and during can support greater focus and composure.

Before the call, take five minutes to sit and focus on your breathing. You can do this while sitting at a desk, on the floor or in another comfortable spot. If any thoughts come up about the call or anything else, acknowledge them and return your thoughts to your breathing. During the call, if you find yourself panicking, take a moment to return to your breathing once again.

Overcome Phone Anxiety

When you’re nervous, it can feel like you need to fill every moment of silence, and taking a few moments for a breath is challenging. The good news is that we actually perceive unfilled pauses in conversation as a sign of intelligence and see people as more educated and articulate when they take a moment before they speak. If you feel like you need to take a pause or take a breath, allow yourself to do so before continuing.

Try Power Posing

Another pre-call tip to build your confidence is to try power posing. The psychology behind power poses is that taking up more physical space makes you feel more dominant. Research shows that power posing can increase testosterone levels and lower cortisol. Poses like the starfish — standing with your arms up and out with a wide stance — can help you experience these effects. 

Combine these power poses with some breathing exercises to reduce stress and feel relaxed when it’s time to pick up the phone.

Embrace Technological Support

Phone anxiety can feel a lot more challenging to manage when your phone is ringing off the hook all day long. While other phone anxiety strategies can help you manage any nerves before and during a call, it’s important to find other ways to reduce your stress. Turning to a call answering service like AnswerHero™ can do just that.

Our dedicated team of bilingual call answering agents field all calls to your office and handle basic responsibilities like appointment scheduling and message taking. These agents are trained based on your preferences and can transfer calls to you only when you request them. With more control over the types of calls you answer, you can ease phone anxiety and focus on other call preparation techniques. 

Focus on Improving Communication Skills

Phone anxiety may relate to a lack of communication skills. The good news is that these skills can be sharpened to help ease your nerves. 

Try Professional Development Programs

Professional communication is a skill like any other. Whether you’re talking on the phone or meeting with a client in person, refining these communication skills is an excellent way to improve your confidence and manage phone anxiety.

If telephonophobia symptoms are standing in your way, consider a professional development program or courses. You may find options focused on phone conversations specifically, but even a program dedicated to communication overall can give you the skills needed to feel good about picking up the phone.

Practice Active Listening

Active listening is a practice that’s commonly associated with strong communication skills. This practice involves becoming an active participant in a conversation to ensure your conversation partner feels heard while providing insightful responses. Some nonverbal active listening techniques are most applicable to in-person or video conversations, while other strategies are ideal for phone interactions.

Importance of Open-Ended Questions

Active listening strategies for phone calls include:

  • Paraphrasing and reflecting: As part of paraphrasing and reflecting, summarize what your conversation partner said to show them you understand and are listening. For example, if they express that they are confused about how one of your services works, you can say, “I’m hearing that you’re a little confused about this service. I’m happy to break it down further.” If you don’t feel like you can paraphrase a point someone is making, ask clarifying questions. 
  • Open-ended questions: More open-ended Questions go beyond a basic “yes” or “no” response, giving your conversation partner the space to talk about their thoughts in more detail. Sometimes, a person might not know exactly what they need to say until they’ve talked about it a bit. Open-ended questions give them that chance and open the door for more topics that might need to be discussed. 
  • Patience: An effective conversation requires patience from both participants to ensure everyone is heard. Give your client time to speak without interruptions. If you scheduled your call for a set length of time, offer a gentle reminder if it’s running long to see if they have a hard cutoff. Remember to practice patience in your responses, too. You can try taking pauses and speaking with a slower tone to get your thoughts in order.

Turn Anxiety Into Opportunity: Enhancing Customer Satisfaction

Phone conversations can be viewed as opportunities in disguise, giving you the chance to improve client happiness and satisfaction.

Crafting Personal Connections Over the Phone

Sometimes, calls with clients can exacerbate phone anxiety because you don’t know them well enough. Making it a point to form human connections with your clients can make conversations feel more natural. Take time to engage in pleasantries like weekend plans and upcoming vacations to learn more about your clients and their interests. Let go of your call agenda for a moment to speak about your own experiences and share in this connection.

While personal connections can reduce the pressure you might feel about making calls, they’re also great for building client rapport. These personal moments show customers that you care about them and want to put time into your relationship. This rapport is valuable for long-term loyalty and can leave your clients feeling more satisfied with your services.

Tracking and Refining Phone Interaction Success

Phone anxiety might convince you that you’re not doing well on a call, even if you are. Instead of counting on your subjective sense of your performance, start tracking it with metrics. Asking your clients to complete a short survey about the phone call afterward is a great way to collect feedback and gauge your phone communication skills.

When building a client feedback survey, you can use ranking factors out of 10 and ask questions like, “How enjoyable was your phone interaction?” From there, you can generate an average score for these categories to get a sense of your overall performance.

If you start tracking your phone interactions before sharpening your skills, it’s okay if your ratings aren’t high on the scale! Use this feedback to set goals for improvement. For example, if enjoyability averages at a 5, you can make it a goal to increase the average to 8 over one month. You might focus on making personal connections on calls or calming your nerves beforehand to improve this rating.

Refining your phone communication skills is an excellent way to settle your nerves and improve the overall client experience — it’s a win-win.

Manage Phone Anxiety With AnswerHero

Manage Phone Anxiety With Call Support From AnswerHero™

When telephonophobia takes over your day, it can feel challenging to handle your responsibilities at work. And when you’re taking calls all day long, the feeling may only intensify. With AnswerHero™, you can reduce your call-related workload and ease phone anxiety. 

Our fully bilingual call agents are ready to take your phone calls 24/7/365, even when your office is closed. Our team will handle calls based on scripts that reflect your needs and preferences, including when our agents should transfer calls to you. Create your own office hours to better manage phone anxiety, and never miss an important call again. Check out our pricing plans with no contracts or hidden fees to get started.