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I simply don't like video/voice calls. I feel I am not comfortable with them, except for emergencies. Most of my co-workers and friends try to convince me in a voice call, because text messaging is simply "too slow" for them (maybe because they're slow at typing and I'm not.).

A few days ago, a friend asked me to explain a technical concept to him via phone. During the conversation, I lost the subject and began mumbling, which I think made him feel that I'm not familiar with the concept and that I lied to him about it; today I was told that he asked someone else about it again (which is kind of rude from my opinion).

I occasionally receive calls from strangers who want to order something or negotiate about project, work, school, etc. I don't want them to, because it's just simply difficult for me to talk via phone. However, I don't have any problems at all meeting with people and talking face-to-face to them.

So, how do I to tell people that I don't like answering my phone?

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    Your friend asked you to explain a technical concept over the phone, which you were unable to do to his satisfaction, so he asked someone else instead. Why is that rude? – Nuclear Wang Nov 17 '17 at 18:57
  • @NuclearWang While I agree with your clarification (if someone feels they need more info, they should be able to seek it elsewhere), I think it's more details into explaning why the OP doesn't want to talk on the phone. He feels his phone skills (or lack of) caused his friend to discredit his explanation and go to someone else. If someone performs an action that makes you feel like your intelligence/credibility is in question, that seems kind of rude. – Jess K. Nov 17 '17 at 21:37
  • @NuclearWang It's just me, my way of interacting with people. I considered it rude because the other guy who my friend asked him was NOT aware of the concept (and he knew it). – Ehsaan Nov 19 '17 at 9:35
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    What’s wrong with honesty? – l--''''''---------'''''''''''' Nov 18 '18 at 11:14
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    Talking on the phone is a necessary professional skill to have. If you are unable to do this and people ask someone else, this is not rude. The smartest person may be the smartest person but if they can't communicate effectively no one will truly know. – LampPost Jan 18 at 18:22
19

If it's someone you know fairly well, I would recommend politely saying:

I'd rather text/email. I'll be able to provide you with more details if I'm able to visually see my thoughts before giving them to you. If it's a hassle for you to write me about this, would you have time to meet up and talk about these things instead? That way I can give you my full attention when talking about this matter.

If it's a stranger you've already answered the phone for, I would (and have) said something more along the following:

Now isn't a good time for me, and I would prefer to respond to your inquiry by text or e-mail, as I could respond much faster and with greater detail on the subject.

If it's a stranger who wants to contact you by phone, use the above but omit the part about "Now isn't a good time for me.

These responses deflect anyone from trying to convince you to enjoy talking on the phone, and instead refocus to you being able to provide a greater contribution to your interaction with them by communicating in a preferred way.

9

Same here - I hate talking on the phone and I find it really easy to get distracted or lose track of the conversation. I like text formats because it's all clear and in front of me. This is a preference, though, and some people just as strongly prefer voice communication! The most common reason I've heard (besides the inconvenience of typing) is that you can read emotions better over voice. For example, something that is intended as a joke or sarcasm might not come across correctly in text, but be very obvious when said out loud. This is very important to some people, and they may feel that phone conversations are more personal and effective.

As with all relationships, being sensitive to other's needs and compromising where you can is best!

A few days ago, a friend asked me to explain a technical concept to him via phone. During the conversation, I lost the subject and began mumbling, which I think made him feel that I'm not familiar with the concept and that I lied to him about it; today I was told that he asked someone else about it again (which is kind of rude from my opinion).

This sounds like you and your friend have different communication styles, rather than your friend intentionally being rude. For example, I would rather read a tutorial than watch a video of one, but that doesn't mean I think less of the guy who makes videos. Although it does hurt when a friend goes to someone else, try not to take this one personally.

If it happens again over the phone and you would like to keep discussing with your friend, let your friend know you're aware of the communication problem and ask for another chance:

(mumble mumble)... Oh geez, I know I'm probably not being very clear here. I tend to get distracted on the phone. It's easier for me to talk about this stuff (in person, over email) because that helps me keep track of my thoughts better - do you have some time later / would that work for you?

Now you and your friend can work out a solution.

I occasionally receive calls from strangers who want to order something or negotiate about project, work, school, etc. I don't want them to, because it's just simply difficult for me to talk via phone. However, I don't have any problems at all meeting with people and talking face-to-face to them. What should I do?

In these situations, why not suggest that? Since they are strangers, they won't be aware of your preferences until you tell them.

Thanks for your interest! I'd be happy to discuss this but phone really isn't the best way to reach me. My email address is op@example.com or if you'd prefer we could set up a meeting?

Depending on their situation, they can suggest which is better and you can go from there.

Another option is to tell the person you are on a time limit when you answer the phone (the limit being however long you can manage talking on the phone). Then when the time is up, thank them for the conversation and ask if you can follow up via email. Especially in workplace settings, people are understanding of time limits and follow-up emails are quite common, so this usually works well when a phone conversation gets too complicated.

4

I am just like that myself: I absolutely dislike interacting with anybody over the phone, because it denies me the crucial visual and emotional information provided by a face-to-face interaction. I feel unable to properly understand (and react to) the response of the person on the other end of the telephone.

However I would suggest that whether or not you can avoid phone calls depends heavily on the type of work you are engaged in, and the cultural expectations regarding over-the-phone interactions in your community.

When I was working for 2 years as a middle level official in public administration in my home town here in India, it was literally impossible for me to avoid discussing work-related matters over the phone (mainly voice call) with hundreds of superiors, colleagues, acquaintances and the general public every single day including off-duty hours. My eventual refusal to answer the phone after 8pm out of sheer mental exhaustion was reported as a 'big crime' to unsympathetic superior officers. It was part of the reason I found myself unsuited for such work and eventually left that job. Note that there are no true emergencies in those branches of public administration where I was employed here.

So for any method to work, your type of work (and work-load) must be such, and the people you interact with must be willing, to allow you to communicate with them mainly face-to-face, or alternatively by text message, using voice calls or video calls only in an emergency situation.

Assuming that it is possible and that people won't misunderstand your position, you can either answer the phone and request a direct meeting, or else 'not take the call and instead answer it with a text message.' In either case, make your preference clear: as in,

I am not comfortable discussing such matters over the phone. So please meet me tomorrow to discuss this matter face to face, or tell me when and where I should meet you. If there is something you want me to know right now, please send me that information as a text message.

One advantage of such an explanation is that you do not tell the other person that you dislike phone interactions in general or why (I tend to tell my reasons only to family members and close friends myself) -- so the co-worker or client is free to imagine that their matter is important enough to deserve a face-to-face meeting.

When you do meet the person face to face, and anticipate many more such phone calls from them, you might find a good moment to tell them that you prefer face-to-face meetings as being the best way to interact with a valued person. However, your body language and overall sincerity must convince them that you are a good and earnest communicator, so that they would be willing to continue to interact with you face to face in future, in such situations.

2

What should I do?

Realistically, ask yourself if you can imagine a basic aversion to answering calls eventually morphing into something broader, such as an "inability" to answer the calls because it makes you too anxious.

For example, I have gone through long periods where I was unable to answer my phone except for a few numbers. is it conceivable that you would simply refuse to answer a call for a future job interview, or from a girl you really like but are a little nervous around?

If so, then even if every part of you wants to do so, you should do the opposite of working out ways of avoiding speaking on the phone. It might seem like the best solution but you will not be doing yourself any favours and making it worse.

If you can afford it, I would also recommend that you contact a clinical psychologist for a session, not because it's anything serious, but because it sounds like something that would be very responsive to CBT e.g. graded exposure but if left unaddressed for 5 years, would be a lot harder to resolve and more likely to have caused you significant problems.

If you can't afford it, then if you have good friends you might need to call in a favour of them and rig up some poor man's exposure therapy. Force yourself to answer calls. Then answer and talk for a minute.

text messaging is simply "too slow" for them (maybe because they're slow at typing and I'm not.).

Unless you can type as fast as they speak, then rig up some interface that allows you to interact with voice callers via text, prepare for a thorough lack of tolerance and patience from others regarding this personal preference/quirk that you have.

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    Solid answer from a psychological perspective, @faustus! Maybe you could also provide the expansion of CBT in the answer for readers not familiar with the cognitive approaches to the treatment of chronic anxiety or 'thought' disorders? – English Student Nov 17 '17 at 21:27
  • I think this answer is projecting - nothing in the OP seems to indicate a phobia, just a preference. – Em C Nov 17 '17 at 21:36
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    @EmC he has a preference based on some sort of negative affect: "it's just simply difficult for me to talk via phone.", and this preference persists in spite of evidence that it's starting to create problems for him. yet rather than to look to develop strategies to "make it less difficult to talk on the phone" he seeks to minimise the frequency of unpleasant encounters (avoidance). i don't think it's a stretch to suggest he is at risk of developing some sort of anxiety disorder. – faustus Nov 17 '17 at 21:55
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    @Faustus Hm, I interpreted "difficulty" as the OP having processing issues (e.g. some people just have a hard time following conversations when they can't see the other person's face). But I understand your reasoning now :) – Em C Nov 17 '17 at 22:10
2

This is a situation about negotiating expectations with people that you know and not giving your mobile number to people who does not need it.

For instance, in my former job as soon they published my private mobile number in a public listing without my permission, I changed my number, and only a limited key people knew my private number.

I also never ever give my mobile number to people who does not need to have it, and refuse to give it in stores when asked for it.

My workmates and my family also know I prefer and find less intrusive to have the daily interactions via text messaging, but once we want to discuss something more complicated or someone is not answering messaging in a urgent situation we then resort to voice calls.

At work, if short messages we got it via texting ("can we meet now? Can we reboot?...Want to go for a coffee?"), if complex technical calls we do it over voice calls, and we only use video for meetings.

Obviously it was not all like that in the beginning at work. Some work on managing expectations and reaching compromises has to be done.

I for instance made it clear to key co-workers I found phone calls intrusive in my private time, but that text chat would be fair game.

Also, part of the game is cutting short contacts in the first place. It drove me to exhaustion engaging on vague multiple interview requests per week in LinkedIn, and was also affecting my job, nowadays I do no engage unless the scope of the job is well defined. This week also a job aquitance asked me for my WhatsApp after I gave him some clues about a work problem, I told him I did not have the time for voice talks, but would be happy to keep answering texts messages.

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First off, I agree with Jess K.'s answer, in that you should try to reframe the issue as being able to provide more value to the person who is contacting you if the conversation is taken by some other media. You are much more likely to get "buy-in" from the other person if you frame it that way, than if you frame it as simply "I don't want to talk on the phone" (no matter how you phrase it).

That said, I'll offer a suggestion for those times when taking the conversation by other media simply isn't an option for one reason or another: Try using a good speakerphone or headset.

While you still lose out on visual cues (just as you do when texting or e-mailing), a speakerphone or headset makes talking to someone on the phone much more like sitting across a table from them simply because you are less "on the phone" and more just "talking" to the person in question.

I used to find talking on the phone awkward. However, after several years of basically being put in situations of having to talk on the phone with people (both people I knew already, and strangers), it has gotten much less so. It's hard to tell exactly what made the biggest difference in this regard, but getting a good headset, and using it, certainly helped in my case.

  • "a speakerphone or headset makes talking to someone on the phone much more like sitting across a table from them simply because you are less "on the phone" and more just "talking" to the person in question" __ absolutely true @Michael Kjörling: I used this method, hooking my phone to a proper speaker system to speak with some of my few close friends (uncle and aunt) twice last year, and found it a very rich experience compared to using the regular phone: voice was reproduced very well and it felt like they were right here in this room! So you have given a very good suggestion for OP. – English Student Nov 18 '17 at 21:14

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