When I was a kid, I used to be afraid to answer the phone. And I never liked making phone calls. I have this early memory of answering the phone and not being sure what to say. Someone at the other end must have thought I was very cute. For stumbling. And the person laughed. I was sure they were laughing at me, for not knowing what to say. So I really hated picking up the phone. Sometimes it would ring and ring in my family, and no one really wanted to pick it up.
I conquered some of my phone fears by working as a temp at the end of college in a variety of firms in the Boston area. And when I worked at MIT, I actually started enjoying answering the phone. “Good morning, this is the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science, how may I help you?” Since I was an early bird and I often got to work before the receptionist, the early morning phone calls were often a professor or researcher from Europe, speaking in some kind of thick European accent. Usually quite friendly. A fun element was added to answering the phone. But what helped the most was having a script. There was a formula for what to say, so it made the process easier.
Now that I have kids of my own, I often prod them to make their own phone calls (when they are little; not teenagers!). And I give suggestions for what to say–“Please”, “Thank You”, “May I please speak with…”, “so-and-so is not available; can I have them call you back?” If they give me that “Ma, leave me alone” look, I know I have succeeded, and I back off.
A few years ago our Cub Scout Pack held its annual food drive, and a friend and I wrote a script for the Cub Scouts to use as they asked neighbors to donate food. I think having a script helped build the boys’ confidence in making the requests.
The worst part of the phone is that it interrupts. What’s a good time for others may not be a good time for me. I am not a night person, so those evening phone calls are always bothersome for me. But early in the morning I can send five emails, and I haven’t woken anyone from their morning slumber!
Anyone out there have any phone phobias to share? Or maybe you have email phobias, or commenting on blog phobias…