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I am not good with phones. Never have been, and likely never will be.

Part of this is due to my severe hearing impairment, which makes spoken communication difficult at the best of times.

Part of this is due to my severe social anxiety, which makes interpersonal communication difficult at the best of times.

Part of this is due to complex PTSD, which makes me hypersensitive to disturbances in my environment at the best of times.

Between background noise, poor connections, the lack of non-verbal cues and the fact that the phone can ring literally whenever regardless of what I'm doing, phone calls are never the best of any of these times.

Whenever I try to communicate this difficulty with people who regularly call me, I end up with one of two results:

  • My concerns are brushed off as inconsequential. Either they downplay how much of a problem this actually is for me, or they act as if this is something I'll eventually get over with practice. Either way, the phone calls continue.
  • My concerns are treated seriously, in which case the calling party stops calling me for any reason ever, effectively cutting off all communication entirely.

These are people that I want to maintain a healthy relationship with, especially friends and family. Neither of these results are acceptable outcomes for me, and while the latter is far preferable to the former it's also a significant contributing factor in my constant fights against depression.

It's not even talking to them on the phone that's the problem, it's just the fact that talking to them on the phone is extremely draining for me. All I want is for people to respect and understand that, but this is so apparently outside of other peoples experience I seem unable to communicate it effectively without it coming off as an unreasonable overreaction to something that is so obviously trivial for others to deal with.

How can I best communicate this issue with people without alienating them? I don't want special treatment here: I appreciate that many of my acquaintances are more comfortable using the phone than alternatives like text or e-mail. I don't begrudge them for calling me for important issues or even just to socialize. But constantly having to deal with phone calls for trivial things is extremely stressful to the point that I'm seriously considering either blocking certain people or cutting off my phone service entirely just to avoid them.

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    Related: interpersonal.stackexchange.com/questions/6928/… – Jesse Apr 18 '18 at 23:59
  • You say they stop calling you entirely like it's a bad thing, but from what you're saying, why is that a problem? Is it because they also don't text/email/message you at all either so they've just stopped talking to you entirely? – scohe001 Apr 19 '18 at 0:25
  • @scohe001 Pretty much, yeah. I don't have that problem with people who are already comfortable with texting or e-mails, but a lot of people I know don't use either, so when phone communication is cut off, they might as well have dropped off the face of the earth. – jipsaw Apr 19 '18 at 0:29
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    @Jesse I have a constant fear of texting people just because I expect them to respond with a phone call. I always set my phone to DND immediately after a text just as a precaution. – jipsaw Apr 19 '18 at 0:57
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    @jipsaw I'm curious where it's typical for people to respond to a text with a phone call. That would be a very bizzare thing to do in my circle. – Azor Ahai Apr 20 '18 at 17:51
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How do I get people to stop excessively calling me on the phone without alienating them?

By creating and encouraging the expectation that texting is the best way to communicate with you

The following comment outlines the double bind you have put yourself in. You want to stay in contact with people without them regularly calling you, but are also not giving them a viable alternative out of fear that the text will result in a call.

@Jesse I have a constant fear of texting people just because I expect them to respond with a phone call. I always set my phone to DND immediately after a text just as a precaution. – jipsaw 7 mins ago

To create the expectation that texting is the best way to communicate with you, you may have to work through this fear. Fortunately though they are responsive to your texts and you have the ability to decline phone calls. The first step is to start texting people. Since this is uncommon for you (or at least not as common as you would like) it might be helpful to have an objective for the conversation, so when something next comes up where you would normally try and meet them face to face to tell them... send a text!

Next you want to establish and enforce the boundary that (generally speaking) you will not accept phone calls. So when they inevitably call you to talk about the text you sent, decline the call and send a follow up text. I would go with something such as:

I would be much better for me if we texted instead of called, I was just trying to sort out [reason for original text].

While it is important to establish this boundary and enforce it by declining phone calls whenever reasonable, in the long term I think focusing on positive encouragement of being extra responsive with texting rather than focusing on the negative rejection of calls will be the most beneficial for your goal. This way, it is not about whether they are taking your concerns seriously or not and you do not have to keep having this unsuccessful discussion about why they should or should not call you. Instead texting just becomes normalised as the best/most successful way to communicate with you. Encouraging the texting is also probably the best way to avoid alienation as it shows them that you do want to communicate.

A friend of mine moved to Germany, and we remained in contact however their clerical job was 99% taking phone calls and they quickly developed a resentment towards it. While the conversation as to why they didn't want to call did come up occasionally, what was clearly the most effective at getting me and others to message them rather than call was the mere fact that they would decline calls but message us regularly. I have a slight preference for calling but even after over a year, their dislike towards phone calls does not cause any issue with our ability and willingness to communicate.

Your family may not properly understand your struggle, but they do want to communicate with you and hopefully this way you can establish some helpful boundaries while still encouraging that communication.

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The suggestion to text is good.

Another - or additional - approach is to introduce quite hours - many phones allow you to set quiet hours/do not disturb where the phone either does not ring, or only rings for selected callers (user's choice).

Sometimes stress with phone calls can be greater if you did not expect the call and couldn't mentally prepare. That kind of stress is reduced if you call them back after "missing" their call because of quiet hours.

You can also tell people preferred hours during which to be called - which allows you to expect calls during that time.

Combine that with a voice mail message that tells them to send you a text if there's anything urgent.

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I'd use a multi-pronged approach:

1) Set your ring tone to mute (except for family) and setup your voice mail answering message to something like "Unfortunately, I am quite hearing impaired and can't read your lips over the phone, so I would very much prefer to chat using (other method)." Then you no longer have to explain it, you can have a robot do it for you!

2) Text messages are extremely inconvenient. No-one in their right mind wants to type more than a sentence on a tiny useless keyboard. Therefore, you should select a chat application that works both on phones and computers (with keyboards!). There are even desktop or web-based SMS apps which route the phone's SMS functionality to a desktop PC. So, pick a messaging app that is easy to use (for you and others). The best choice would be something that is already installed on everyone's phone, like Facebook Messenger (if you don't mind Facebook's reckless attitude towards privacy), or maybe skype.

There are other things that you can do.

Say, your friends miss you and would like to have news a few times a week. If you don't contact them, then they will contact you at a time that is inconvenient to you, and you want to avoid this. So, why not initiate the conversation at the moment of your choosing? Chat or phone call, or you could also use a video call app (like skype) to read lips and get body language cues.

There are also apps that can translate a phone call into text in real time (google android deaf).

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