For most of us, making a telephone call is something that we need to do almost every day, and on some days it may be the case that we need to make quite a few calls. The prospect of spending time on the phone, particularly if it’s dealing with difficult family members or creditors can make the whole thing stressful. Many people put off these tasks…that just makes it even more difficult next time you try calling.
In my experience of working with people at Birmingham Counselling Services and elsewhere is that dealing with the issue effectively once can reduce your anxiety and increase well-being. I hope you find the following tips useful.
keeping calm, and getting things done when on the phone with call centres
Telephone calls range in formality from the highly formal telephone interview, to the official calls (about our utility bills, personal finances and whatever) to personal informal calls to friends and family – maybe along the lines of ‘what have we got for dinner tonight’?
While the more informal calls require us to speak and be polite (alongside the usual telephone rules and etiquette); for many people it is the making of official calls that ignite a fear deep within. At the extreme end of the spectrum this ‘telephobia’ can become so acute that a person will simply avoid making the call altogether, or make the call under great stress.
Even for those of us who do not hold this fear, I’m sure there have been times when we have been nervous about making that all important call and maybe things haven’t gone to plan – e.g. we got overly stressed, upset or forgot what we wanted to say.
To avoid these unpleasant situations, here are a few useful actions that can be taken to make that all-important phone call go to plan and be virtually stress-free.
Practice what you might say and anticipate the responses
You could do this by speaking into the handset without anyone at the end and going through a conversation – just to get the feel of things. Practicing with family and friends (though at first can be embarrassing) can also be very helpful. A good technique can be to arrange to phone a friend (often less awkward than close family members) and go through a trial conversation with them e.g. a mock telephone interview or enquiry and ask for their feedback.
Make bullet points about what you want to say
Think about what you wish to discuss during the phone call in order (from introducing yourself to finishing the conversation). From experience, it is best to do this in bullet-point form, as if you write the conversation (word for word) as soon as you move away from your written script you will be thrown off course. It is nearly impossible to plan for a conversation even with a close friend and completely undoable with somebody that you have never spoken to before. Having bullet points will allow you to go down the list and pick things out. Also, before finishing the conversation you can scan the list to make sure you have not forgotten to discuss anything. You will probably need to quote ID numbers, passwords and provide other information so it is also good practice to have all letters you think you may need to hand.
Try not to think too much about making the call
As with many things in life, the worst part of a fear is actually the wait and the thought of making the phone call. The more you think about it, the more stressful it will become and the more difficult it will be to actually make the call. What’s more, you may actually talk yourself out of making the call altogether. The best approach is to have everything prepared and before thinking, quickly dial the number and hopefully somebody will answer quickly.
Listen to the automated message and have a distraction activity ready if you are on hold for a time
When calling many larger companies you will probably get through to and answering machine with lots of different option (press button 1 for… button 2 for… etc). Try to listen carefully to these and select the best option, as getting through to the wrong department and having to be transferred can cause stress to build. Waiting while listening to some pretty awful music and waiting for a person to answer can cause much of the stress when calling – especially those systems where you think a person at the other end has picked-up the phone but instead only a recorded message clicks in telling you that you are in a queue (as if you didn’t know already). Having a pen or something to hold can be helpful as well as looking through a book or reading a poster. Just something that will take out mind off the waiting and having one ear listening for somebody to answer.
Use the call centre reps name (and record the name and time of the conversation)
This seems to ‘break the ice’ and generally puts the conversation on a friendly more relaxed footing. If you don’t hear the person’s name at first, ask them and the go on to wish them good morning/afternoon and start the conversation. Try though not to bombard the person with information, but rather take things one at a time, slowly and clearly.
IF THINGS GET TOO STRESSFUL (AND IT BEGINS TO INTERUPT THE CONVERSATION), POLITELY FINISH THE CONVERSTION AND CALL AGAIN LATER.
It is much better to do this than to carry on and really get into a panic. After all, if you are in such a panic then you will probably miss most of what is being said anyway. As a very last resort when the stress really becomes too much, to get out of the conversation easily you could say that something has come up and that you will have to finish the call and will try later. Thank the person for their time and end the call. There is no harm in this.
BEFORE ENDING THE CALL, LOOK DOWN YOUR LIST AND MAKE SURE YOU HAVE DISCUSSED EVERYTHING YOU WANT BEFORE FINISHING THE CALL
This will save having to call back later. Always leave the conversation on a positive note by thanking the person you spoke to for their help (if they have been helpful of course) and end the call. Whatever happens, try to end the call on a positive and relaxed note, as this will help to make future calls less stressful.
Over time with practice and taking these techniques into account, making phone calls should become easier. The more often you make them, the more confident you should become. Finally, at the end of the day just as long as you are polite, what does it matter as to what the other person thinks of you?
If you recognise that your stress and anxiety levels are so great these tips don’t even begin to help it might be time to see a counsellor. At Birmingham Counselling Service we have a selection of fully trained, friendly and confidential counsellors available to see you this week. Contact us on 0121 314 9903 or fill in your details here