It has struck many people who know me well as wholly ironic that my chosen profession is 100% focused on all things telephone related. You see, I am a full-fledged introvert with a lifelong, overwhelming fear of talking on the phone.
From the time I was a teen, I would freeze up, unable to utter something as simple as “I’d like a large pepperoni pizza for delivery, please,” as if the person on the other end of the line was going to declare my request absurd and deny me on the basis of being too rude or too something. As much as I tried, all that would escape my lips was the teeniest squeak and I’d just give up and hand the phone off to one of my amazingly talented, telephone fluent friends.
So how do I do it now? How does an introvert like me handle talking on the telephone for a living? Here are some things that have helped me if not conquer, at least face my fear:
- Practice Makes Perfect: as the saying goes, the more you practice something, the better at it you get. As time has gone by, I’ve definitely become more comfortable talking to people on the phone. At first I stumbled on my words, didn’t speak loud enough and scrambled for the right answers to callers’ questions. I’m sure, at first, I was not as clear or articulate as I could have been. It’s impossible to know because I was so flustered for the first couple of months working as a customer service agent I blocked it all out. But sure enough, practicing has made perfect. Okay, not perfect, but perfectly okay.
- Perfectly Okay is Perfect Enough: Realizing I’m not expected to be perfect has helped immeasurably. Quite possibly the best advice I picked up along the way in my professional life, maybe in all areas of my life, has been that it’s okay to say: “I’m not sure, let me look into that for you.” Seriously, nobody knows everything and it’s perfectly okay to let somebody know that you don’t have the answer.
- Speak Up, Slow Down: Being nervous does all kinds of things to the way you present yourself versus the way you perceive yourself. It’s especially bad on the telephone when you are trying to help somebody and they ask you to repeat what you just mustered all of your courage to say because they couldn’t hear you or you hurried to spit out the words so fast it came out like a lightening fast whisper. In my mind, I am a naturally loud and articulate speaker, but the reality of it is that I’m not nearly as naturally loud or articulate as I think I am. To combat the need to repeat myself, I try to speak louder and slower than I think is necessary; I strive for conscious projection and enunciation.
- People are People: Realize that the person on the other end of the telephone line is just a person, too. As soon as I stop and think about the person I’m talking to as just another flawed human being, they become a lot less scary. They may even be as nervous to have this conversation as I am!
- Smile: As in most unpleasant or scary situations in my life, I’ve found that putting a smile on my face instantly makes everything a whole lot more enjoyable. Whenever I’m feeling scared or upset, I purposefully smile and my brain responds. The old adage “mind over matter” really rings true for me when it comes to working on the telephone.
So there you have it, my keys to facing a life on the telephone as an introvert. Hopefully keeping these tips in mind will help you tackle your fear of working on the phone. Perhaps you’ll even grow to enjoy it like I have.
Now if I could just figure out how to overcome my fear of public speaking!