As someone who suffers from social anxiety, there are many things that I don’t feel comfortable doing on my own. I don’t like ordering food at restaurants, I don’t like stopping people to ask them questions, and I especially don’t like making phone calls to strangers.
Before I came to college, I couldn’t even dial a number without getting crushed by my own anxiety. I’d have to ask my mom to do it for me. If she wasn’t available, I just wouldn’t do it at all. Now that I’m a college student, I have a much easier time calling in to handle all of my adult business. Being out of the house has given me the opportunity to develop my social skills, but since I know that not everyone is in the same boat as me.
I’ve compiled a list of steps to making a successful phone call. Here are 10 steps to making a phone call to strangers:
1. Figure out what you need.
Before you make your call, you need to decide why you’re doing this at all. Are you calling in to ask for information? To make an appointment? To order something? To voice a complaint? Figure out why you’re calling, and then make sure you have all the materials you might need to complete this interaction. Write down any questions you have. Have important numbers ready. Know what your order is. You could even write out an entire script if you need one.
The call will go so much smoother if you’re prepared, but don’t sweat it too hard if you forget something. The person on the other end of the line is more patient and understanding than you think.
2. Realize that you’re not trying to impress anybody.
The person on the other end of the line has the same motive as you do: to get this over with as painlessly as possible. Their job isn’t to judge how well you speak. You’re calling them to complete a task, and their job is to help you. They’ve probably done this a million times already. You won’t stand out to them at all.
3. Get Zen.
Make some tea. Sit somewhere comfy. Pace if that helps release nervous energy. Do what you need to do to get in the right headspace for this. Take your time, don’t rush, and call when you’re ready.
4. Dial the number and call.
Do it quickly so you don’t have time to back out. The longer you draw this part out, the harder it will be.
If you have to wait for someone to pick up, or if you’re put on hold, each second may feel like a burning eternity. Just keep breathing. Distract yourself, fidget, and review your script. Breathe more. The voice on the other end of the line will always startle you a little when it pops up. There’s no shame in being scared.
6. Speak slower than normal.
Your anxiety will probably tempt you to talk fast, but that makes it harder for someone else to understand you. That will draw the call on and make you more anxious and harder to understand, so let’s not start the cycle at all.
Force yourself to talk slower than normal and enunciate your words. It may sound weird to you, but it’ll honestly make it easier for the other person to make out what you’re saying. Remember to keep breathing. Don’t beat yourself up over stuttering, it’s always recoverable.
7. If you freeze up, don’t panic.
Even if you do everything perfectly, you may still freeze up. That’s okay! Tell the other person that you lost your train of thought and ask them to remind you of what you were talking about. This is when a script would come in handy. You can just read back to where you were and keep going, no worries.
8. Don’t feel bad if the call ends abruptly.
It’s easy to feel guilty if you forget to return pleasantries at the end of a call, but I promise you that it doesn’t matter. The other person has other things to do after the call ends. They won’t dwell on it. Not wishing them a good day won’t ruin the rest of their shift and they won’t think badly of you for it. They’ll forget about it as soon as it happens.
You did it! You made a phone call to a stranger! Reward yourself. Be proud of what you did. Other adults might try to dismiss you and say that you should already know how to do this, but don’t listen to them and their bitterness. You just did something that was really hard for you, so you’re right to be proud of yourself. I’m proud of you, too!
10. Keep practicing.
Calling strangers is a skill, and like any skill, you need to practice it if you want to get better. The first few calls will be hard, but I promise that it gets better. The more you do it, the easier it will get, and even if it’s never as simple as picking up the phone and dialing, it’s still amazing that you would do it at all. Like, you know how easy it is to just not do stuff, right?
You’re an absolute champion!