For many office workers, answering the phone or making a call are some of the hardest, most stressful parts of the job. Pulse racing, palms sweating, mouth dry, you’ll reach for the receiver with a sense of doom. According to a recent survey, 62% of office workers, and 76% of the millennials share your call-related anxiety.
However, phones remain one of the most important channels of business communication. Especially since modern business phone systems keep on expanding their capabilities, moving to the cloud, and offering applications for customer service management, CRM systems, analytics, and AI assistance.
This means that overcoming phone anxiety is a vital step to move ahead in your career, and communicate effectively with partners, colleagues, and clients. Here are eight strategies that can help you in the endeavor.1 – Set up the Right Environment
If the call is scheduled, preparing the place where you’ll take it can help alleviate anxiety. Make sure that reception is good and that there are no loud noises or other distractions. This makes it less likely that you’ll have trouble understanding the caller, normally a major source of stress.
A comfy chair and a glass of water, or a cup of chamomile tea within reach also make the ordeal of a half-hour work call more bearable.2 – Set Goals and Prepare Bullet Points
Again, if the call is a scheduled one, you can brace yourself by defining clear goals for the call, and prepare your talking points accordingly. It is also a good idea to send an email with a suggested agenda to the caller ahead of time.
Then, you can do research and prepare bullet points. If you are at a loss for what to say, or freeze on the line, you’ll have your notes at hand to help you out.3 – Practice and Visualize
Practice makes perfect. That’s true for the art of the business call, too. While this is little consolation for the ‘real world’ scenario, it means that you can reduce call anxiety by rehearsing ahead of time.
While you’re in the shower, making breakfast, driving to work, or taking a break, you can repeat staple phrases for greetings, asking for more information, placating clients, and saying goodbye. Visualizing the call situation and practicing these phrases will help you when you’re on a real call. After enough practice, the words will come almost automatically.4 – Rack up a Record of Pleasant Calls
If you’ve had a few anxiety-induced call disasters, your mind automatically associates making calls with excruciating embarrassment and stress. You can rewire it by making a series of pleasant, easy calls.
Most of us prefer to text nowadays. But if you’re suffering from call anxiety at work, it helps to practice in private by calling friends, family, and colleagues. Having pleasant, no-pressure phone interaction with people you like and trust – even just short conversations – can take a lot of anxiety out of serious calls.
Plus, your grandmother is probably going to be over the moon to hear your voice.5 – Fidget
Some prefer to ‘fake it till they make it’, hold their head high, and act like a boss when making a call, even if they’re screaming inside. That is one way to go.
Another way is to let out your stress by fidgeting. Go ahead and vibrate your foot, squeeze that stress ball, wring your hands, twist your hair around your fingers. The person on the other end can’t see any of it.
Just make sure you fidget quietly. Drumming your fingers or pens on a desk is probably audible on the other end of the line.6 – Use Relaxation Techniques
If you’re strung taut ahead of a call, it pays off to take a few minutes to consciously relax. Use breathing exercises to slow your heart rate. Stretch to ease the tension in your neck and shoulders. Hum to warm up your vocal cords.
It may sound cliché, but these techniques don’t just help you prepare mentally, but also to sound more confident and relaxed during the actual call.7 – Have (Tech) Backup
Some days are just worse than others. On a bad day, make sure that you have backup while on a call. This can be a friend or helpful colleague sitting on standby – for moral support, or to jump in when necessary.
You can also use features that most modern phone systems provide to make things easier. Call screening will only let calls from your contact list through. Automatic call recording and transcription take off the pressure of having to understand every single word, or of taking notes as you talk.
With voicemail-to-email, you get to mail someone back rather than calling. And call routing allows you to pass calls to someone else when things are too hard to handle.The Bottom Line
Phone calls are stressful. There is no way around that.
With the right setting and strategies, though, you can reduce this stress and keep anxiety under control.
Finally, even if things don’t go exactly according to plan, remember that the person on the other end of the line is probably just as eager as you for the call to end.