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How I Ease My Phone Phobia as a Deaf Person

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I was born Deaf. Even though I cannot fully understand speech without lipreading, I could understand a few people close to me over the phone in a limited way.

But I’ve always had some “phone phobia” and usually avoid the phone unless it’s from a trusted phone number.

Wikipedia described phone phobia as:

Fear of using the phone in any context (for either making or receiving calls) may be associated with anxiety about poor sound quality, and concerns that one or other party will not understand what has been said, resulting either in misunderstandings, or in the need for repetition, further explanation, or other potentially awkward forms of negotiation.

Even nowadays with newer technology such as the captioned phone, where an operator types the caller’s conversation for you to read on the screen while you talk to them, I still get anxious when having to use the phone. I’d rather use IP Relay where I can type out my conversation instead and have an operator as a buffer for my anxiety.

If you meet me in person, you’d probably think I have no social anxiety at all, and I hardly ever do while out in public. On the phone the lack of lipreading, having to explain the phone technology and delays, worrying about my “deaf accent,” and lack of seeing body language in the other person just ramps up my anxiety.

I’m trying to ease this and learn new methods of getting through it, and I thought I’d share them with you.

5 Strategies for Easing Phone Phobia

1. Exposure and practice. Simply put, the more you try doing it, the easier it becomes. Try it with telemarketers too. Have some fun and pester them with silly questions.

2. You’re fine. Just know you’re not expected to be perfect. Don’t worry if you don’t know the answer right away, stumble through, or ramble on. Everyone does this at one point or another.

3. Rehearse. Write a script of what you need to say and write answers for any anticipated questions. Write down key points to cover, questions you have and even conversation topics to keep the flow going. Don’t read it word for word, but keep it handy to ease any anxiety.

4. Businesses want you to call — they’re there to help you and since they’re in customer service, they’re (usually) trained to help you. As long as you stay calm and polite, they’re often willing to help and it’s a happy break from angry rude calls they’ve received.

5. Act as if you’re there. Use gestures, smile, and use the same body language. Even though the other person won’t see it, it’ll come across in your voice. Part of social anxiety is the restraint of movements, so walk around and free yourself.

I hope these tips will help you “reach out and touch someone” (Oh I know, even I’m eyerolling at myself).

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Originally published: May 15, 2017
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