How to Conquer Your Fear of Talking on the Phone

I fear talking on the phone about as much as I fear cockroaches.

And I fear cockroaches a lot. Because a few weeks ago, I came face to face with one and feared for my life. Literally face to face.

After popping out of bed at 3:00 am to feed my son, I made my usual detour to the bathroom and found the little monster creeping across the mirror. Oddly enough, I suddenly had no desire to do business in there after that.

Like any self-respecting and reasonable person, I jumped. It flew. I ran—straight to my bedroom, where my husband woke to me crying and pleading for him to slay it RIGHT NOW. I settled for him trapping it in a storage basket with a textbook lodged on top. You can’t expect the world of someone you scare out of sleep, after all.

The terror was real. And it’s the same way I feel talking on the phone.

I get inexplicably nervous. I don’t know what to do or say. I wish for it to end quickly and hope it never happens again. And I’m not the only one—almost every millennial I know feels uncomfortable talking on the phone (and don’t even get us started on voice mail). It’s awkward, nerve-wracking, and doesn’t provide a comfortable amount of reaction time… or so we think.

A strategic approach to phone calls can reduce that terror. Just treat them like cockroaches—your practice, bravery, and persistence will make dialing a number seem like no big deal. Here’s what you do:

12_Fear of Talking on the Phone

1. Arm yourself

If you’re going to battle cockroaches, you need to be prepared. After “The Incident,” we plugged up our drains at night and always checked every corner in the bathroom before doing any business. Obsessive? Yes. Weird? Absolutely. But we didn’t want to get surprised again, so we could live with the added effort.

If talking on the phone gives you creepy crawlies, preparation can zap some of your nerves. Create a rough script of you need to say, practice it (out loud if possible), and visualize a successful conversation with your partner on the other line. Obsessive? Yes. Weird? Absolutely. But it will instill much more confidence than talking on the fly.

2. Be fearless

The textbook-covered basket stayed in our living room for about a week. When we felt the time was right, we brought it outside to uncover the beast and set it free. (Okay, it was more like my husband setting it free, while I served as valuable moral support.) He set the basket down on the sidewalk, tipped it over, and…

It wasn’t there.

Which meant that a) it had scurried away faster than we could see, or b) it was still lurking in our apartment. We had to accept that we would probably face it again, even if we couldn’t predict the circumstances. We had to be brave.

When you’re talking on the phone, the listener can’t detect your nervousness 99% of the time—and the other 1% usually gets brushed off anyway (unless you didn’t prepare and fumbled through the whole conversation). If you pretend to sound confident, nobody will know the difference. As the old adage goes, fake it ‘til you make it. And you will make it.

3. Keep trying

I found the monster back in our bathroom the next night. I called my roach slayer (ahem, husband) and he stood poised, broom in hand, waiting for a clean shot. The thing about cockroaches, though, is that they’re resilient—he swung the broom at it once it took off running, but needed multiple swats to ensure it was really dead. We slept more peacefully than we had in days—and knew that if another one dared to enter our domain, we would be ready.

One conversation won’t make you comfortable with phone calls. It may take five tries or a hundred tries—but each added attempt will enhance your conversation skills and squelch the nerves that make you fumble through the whole exchange. If you can’t completely avoid it, you may as well practice the crap out of it.


Maybe you’ll dominate your fear right away… or maybe you’ll need more practice (I still have cockroach-induced PTSD, to be honest). But the next time you start talking on the phone, you will at least have a plan—and that can make all the difference.

If nothing else, at least you never had a cockroach fly at your face.

What’s your approach to phone calls (and do you hate them as much as me)? Leave a comment!


Image: David Goehring / CC BY 2.0


  1. says

    I totally needed this before today! I had to answer the phone at work for the first time today, and it was pretty rough. After taking the customer’s order, I let a really long, awkward pause happen before an abrupt “Okay. Bye.” and hanging up. Looks like I have some practicing to do, haha!

    • gradgirl says

      Don’t worry, Allie, I’ve done the “okay bye” in real conversation–and it’s much more awkward! :) Glad this post helped.

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