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Afraid To Answer Your Phone? Here’s Why

What do spiders, clowns, and a ringing phone have in common? Fear.

For some people, the thought of picking up a ringing phone brings about as much anxiety as getting on a plane (or jumping out of one). And while the fear or avoidance of phone conversations isn’t exclusive to social anxiety (which affects around 15 million people in the US), it can be one aspect of it.

Can the anxiety around a phone call actually force people to avoid the phone altogether? Maybe. According to one study by Pew Research, the average cell phone owners in the US is only making or receiving around 12 calls per day—a separate study done by Informate slashes that number in half.


Why the Fear?

1. You have no idea how the other person feels

How much easier is it to know how someone feels about a proposal when you can deliver it face to face? That’s because a big chunk of how we communicate and ultimately understand one another is non-verbal.

But you lose all that when you hop on a call. Instead, you’re left to infer meaning from what the other person is saying—without the aid of seeing the smirk or scowl on the other end to guide you. And the not knowing, as the saying goes, is often worse than anything else.

2. You feel under pressure

How many times have you re-read an email before hitting send, tweaking the same line over and over again? The beauty of text-based communication like email or Slack is that you have all the time you need to collect your thoughts, to present the best version of yourself, etc.

But a call doesn’t grant you that same opportunity. On the phone you’re expected to pay attention to every word, to respond thoughtfully and concisely—all while keeping the person on the other line engaged. And for people in roles like sales or support, the pressure to have the right answer right when in the moment is even higher: 74% of consumers that have a bad phone support experience are likely to choose another business the next time they shop.

3. You’ve had a really bad phone experiences in the past

Whether it was an interview for a promising new job or you had the misfortune of catching your boss in a particularly bad mood, sometimes phone phobia stems from having had a tremendously bad previous phone experience.

And just like the first time you fell off your bike or watched a really scary movie, one bad experience can make you want to avoid a phone call at all costs.

While certainly not as simple as just picking up the phone, people with phone phobia can learn how to overcome their anxiety and become more comfortable with phone conversations—we’ve even highlighted a few best practice tips here.