I hate telephones

DECT phone handset

DECT phone handsetI have always had a problem with talking on the phone, long before I ever encountered depression or anxiety as long term problems. People who know me might find that funny because I used to sell mobile phones for a living and I have had a smartphone since the days of the Nokia communicator. What they may not realise is that for me a smartphone is a pocket computer with an internet connection. I regard its ability to receive voice calls as an unwanted extra.

Unfortunately society demands that I do actually talk on the phone, so what is the problem?

Interestingly I actually find making calls for business or calls to services much easier than calls to friends or to people who I know outside of their job. When I worked as an IT technician, and before that selling mobile phones, I could quite happily phone someone to answer or ask technical questions, or to organise something related to work. I think this is because such calls have a defined protocol, a script. I know that I will go through certain phrases and steps in order. I can also call people who I talk to a lot such as my parents or my wife. The problem for me comes when I have to call a friend where there is no script or protocol. In such situations I don’t know what will happen or what I should say and my anxiety kicks in. This gets worse when I am unsure how well a person knows me, or if a person will recognise me or remember me, or will want to speak to me. Then my anxiety gets very bad and I am most unlikely to actually make the phone call at all.

I also hate answerphones. My mind tells me that this is silly, because at least answerphones are machines not people and so I should be less anxious about the whole thing. What actually happens is that I prepare myself to talk to a person, go through the script in my head, only to get a message demanding that I explain myself RIGHT NOW. The result is that I panic and say something stupid, or I hang up.

This whole problem is complicated even more right now by the physical health problems that I have and by the anxiety and mental health problems that I have suffered from for the last three years. On days when my fatigue and pain or cognition are very bad I just cannot speak on the phone. I may lack the energy to speak, or be unable to make the connection from thoughts to voice, or unable to complete my thoughts. (Which means I might be happily tweeting or chatting online but unable to talk on the phone.) Holding the phone for too long can cause extra pain in my hands and arms and back, and talking for more than a few minutes is exhausting. On top of all that, now I also get anxious about being anxious, and receiving a phone call can send me into a panic, which is why I often ignore calls from numbers that I don’t know. Unfortunately this can lead to things like me ignoring calls from my wife when her bike has broken down and she has borrowed someone else’s phone!

Author: Latentexistence

The world is broken and I can't fix it because I am broken. I can, however, rant about it all and this is where I do that when I can get my thoughts together. Most of the time you'll find my words on Twitter rather than here though. I sometimes write for Where's The Benefit too.

5 thoughts on “I hate telephones”

  1. According to that font of all scientific knowledge, The Big Bang Theory, you hold the phone to your right ear when you’re talking to someone you have a personal connection to, and your left ear when you’re talking to someone like a business associate or the DWP.

    If true, it makes a lot of sense as to my phone-using issues when depression is taken out of the equation: Because I can only hold a phone to my right ear. On the left it’s just incoherent mumbling. It explains why talking to people I have no personal connection to with the phone against my right ear is just so damn befuddling.

    1. The statistical reason for holding the phone to your left ear when speaking on a business type matter (or with the DWP) is that you may need to write something down. It includes the left ear deaf/lefthanded people in the “Majority of People use their left ear…”.

  2. It’s something that affects me too, though not as much as the actual face-to-face conversations that take a gargantuan effort to get through. The idea of a ‘script’, or lack thereof, is spot on. Conversations that aren’t easy to predict are stressful and the more stressful I find it the more likely I am to say something stupid! This happens even with people I’m comfortable with and then I worry about it for days afterwards.

  3. I totally agree with the Answerphone/Voicemail problem. The difficulty of asking a question when you don’t know who will be listening to the message, coupled with the “Do it NOW!” immediacy of the recording is terrible. My answer to this problem is “Call me back, I am Tony Turtle and I can be reached on NNNN NNNNNN, thank you.”

  4. I hate phones too. I don’t like interrupting people or them me, which is why by choice I use email/text where information can be exchanged at people’s leisure!

    Answer machines are the pits, not least of all cos you have prepared to say one thing and then ended up saying ‘errrrrrr, ummmm’ but because you know no matter how coherent your message is, it will sound awful!

    I most especially dislike ringing companies to get information because I simply don’t understand the script and I come away not only having failed to secure the required information but having now been sold something else completely different!

    But what I have discovered this last week I hate most about phones is: I cannot see the other person’s lips moving, thereby helping me ensure I have heard them correctly. I cannot see their body language and facial expressions which give me vital clues as to their intent, humour, anger or anything else.

    We all have our issues and I don’t envy having the added bonus of struggling daily with illness, anxiety or depression!! I know what I’ve just written can be taken in a ‘just get over it’ sense, but it is not intended that way, it is simply a ‘I share your pain’ and understand how difficult this all can make life!!! Phone calls are just painful, full stop.

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