We’ve been hearing that many young people struggle with telephone anxiety. As so many support services are being offered via telephone at the moment, the anxiety you feel about talking on the phone has really prevented you from receiving support. So we asked three of our Young Ambassadors to share their experiences of struggling with telephone anxiety and explore some ways that they overcame it.
Have you ever struggled with telephone anxiety and how did it make you feel?
Abbie: I’ve definitely struggled with telephone anxiety, both about making and receiving calls. Knowing I have to make a call makes me feel really anxious, and I feel anxious as soon as I see my phone ringing, even if it is from someone like the doctor. I have felt really silly because I thought ‘its just a phone call – it’s something that people do every day’. But actually it’s completely justified to feel scared or anxious, and feeling that way isn’t silly at all. You shouldn’t think that you’re silly or stupid for feeling that way. It’s just learning about how you can feel less scared so that you’re more comfortable when you’re making or receiving phone calls.
Fen: Telephone anxiety is something I’ve struggled with. I think lots of young people get nervous about talking over the phone. For me, it makes me anxious because I can’t see the person I’m talking to, so I don’t really know when it’s my turn to talk, and I don’t know whether what I’m saying is being interpreted.
Jemma: Lots of people who experience telephone anxiety may not experience day-to-day generalised anxiety, and it is definitely more common than you might think. I’ve definitely had moments where the phone rings and I’ve been stressed out at that moment. I’ve panicked because I need to answer the phone. I’ve also felt anxious about just talking on the phone, picking up the phone or making a call, as it’s made me feel on the spot, unprepared and therefore nervous and anxious.
I felt this the most around when I was 16/17 years old and I was just grasping the responsibilities of adulthood so I was answering more calls, and making a lot more calls like to the bank, for example, and I just wasn’t used to doing it. That definitely affected me, and I felt really confused by the feeling because I feel like I’m a confident person and so I was really confused by why I was suddenly having such a nervous reaction to talking on the phone which is something I was fine with doing before.
How do you overcome telephone anxiety and prepare to talk on the phone? Can you share any advice?
Fen: I come up with scripts in my head, so I know how I’m going to start the conversation. I’ve found that if I know how I’m going to start the conversation, it’s a lot easier to follow on because for me the hardest part is starting the conversation – if I’ve got that bit down, the rest just flows better.
Jemma: In 2017 when I was working on the front desk at a takeaway I was on the phone all the time, and I had some good customers and some not so nice customers! It was a very different experience than anything I’ve ever done before. It definitely triggered my telephone anxiety because I was in a situation where I had to make calls all the time. However, this is where I used my acting experience and was able to create a character with a sort of script and a way of saying things. I could slip into this role and avoid overthinking things, and this really helped me address my anxiety.
Abbie: Overcoming telephone anxiety is a process and one I’m still working on. I practise calls and because my friends know that I’m really not comfortable with talking on the phone we arrange a time to talk. So I know to expect the call and I’ve had time to think about what I want to say rather than feeling unprepared. I’ve found it’s a really great place to start. Then I relax the time frame a little bit and agree just the day, or that they would call me that week because often in real life, you may be expecting a call but you don’t necessarily know when it’s going to be.
I also rehearse what I want to say on the phone, even just the ‘Hello’ because having the start prepared, I feel like it’s a lot easier to carry on. I write notes of what I want to say, what the person is saying and any questions I want to ask. This means I don’t have to remember those questions whilst concentrating on what they are saying and worry about not getting all the information I need. Then, when they ask if there’s anything else, I can look back down my list, and I tick it off as I go. That way I know I’ve said everything I wanted to say and covered all my queries and I didn’t miss anything.
Thank you to our Young Ambassadors, Abbie, Jemma and Fen for taking part.
Ready to talk?
If you’d like to talk to one of our trained counsellors for a chat please use our free helpline. Simply text TALK followed by your first name and postcode to 07786 202430 to request a phone call. The support line is open from 5-8pm, Monday to Friday. No5 Helpline is not a crisis line. If you are in crisis please contact the Samaritans 24/7 phone line on 116 123.