how can I get more comfortable talking on the phone? by Alison Green on October 9, 2014 A reader writes: My question, or gripe, is about the phone. I’m frustrated with myself, mainly. My new position involves talking to people constantly – making appointments, forming relationships with donors, solving problems with coworkers, negotiating bids, etc. It’s a highly interactive role. You’ve talked before about preferring email over phone for most communications (with exceptions of course), but I’m quickly learning that this organization and our clients and donors use the phone. I’m not asking to change this, but I’m eager to change myself. I get so uncomfortable and nervous talking on the phone. My heart drops when I see an incoming number I don’t know. I get even more anxious when I have to return a phone call, praying that the receiver won’t answer and I can follow up via email. Much of my anxiety comes from being overheard. For some reason, I get nervous when my phones rings and my boss is in earshot, hearing my side on the conversation. How can I get over this? I want to be better at communicating, but I’m not sure what steps to take. Any phone lovers out there with advice? I think part of the reason why so many people are squicky about the phone is because it’s used much less frequently now than it used to be (thanks to email and texting), and its drop in familiarity has made it more nerve-wracking for some than when it was a more regular part of life. So if you’re like most people, just plunging in and forcing yourself to do it will help you get more comfortable (which is convenient, since it sounds like you don’t have a choice anyway). Also, don’t be afraid to write out talking points for yourself ahead of time. You don’t want to sound like you’re reading a script, of course, but it can be really helpful to have a written guide to structure the conversation and to prevent you from having to come up with perfect wording on the fly. Plus, the act of thinking through what you’ll say ahead of time can make you feel a lot more prepared. (Confession: The first few times I had to make job offers, I totally wrote out a script for myself because I was nervous about somehow getting it wrong. I did it for tricky performance conversations too, and actually think that all managers should write out talking points for particularly important or sensitive conversations. And there’s no reason you can’t steal that trick and use it for more routine calls too.) Regarding your anxiety about being overheard: This is going to sound totally counterintuitive, but I’d seriously consider telling your boss that you’d welcome feedback if she ever has any when she overhears your phone calls. You could even be completely transparent and say, “Being on the phone this much is new for me, and I’ve never really been a phone person — so if you hear things you think I could be doing better, I’d love to get feedback.” There’s something about owning up to the fact that you’re not super comfortable on the phone and explicitly inviting feedback — and conveying “I know I might not have this down, and I’m not assuming I’m a phone savant” — that might actually make you less anxious about being overheard. You may also like:can I stop taking phone calls at work and direct everyone to email me?my boss told me to stop closing my office door when I’m on the phonewhen I overhear speaker phone conversations, is what I overhear fair game to share?