If you don't know how to get a social call started, don't worry. You're not the only one. Lots of people feel a little awkward on the phone. When making a phone call, know what you want to say ahead of time, which helps get the conversation going. Work on continuing the conversation by listening and asking open-ended questions. If you're very anxious about phone calls, work on your telephone anxiety through practice and relaxation techniques to make social calls easier.
Starting the Conversation
Come up with a valid reason for calling ahead of time.
If you find phone calls a little awkward, have a reason for calling to make it easier. Use a specific reason, such as finding out a piece of information, or something more general, such as just wanting to catch up.
- For example, your reason could be wanting to know when a meeting you’re both going to is happening tomorrow.
- Alternatively, your reason could be checking in with the person to see how they’re doing.
Make notes on what you want to say.
If you’re worried your mind will go blank when you make the call, jot down a couple of topics you want to cover on a piece of paper. That way, you have them in front of you.
- Don’t write out everything you want to say, as your speech will sound stilted to the other person. Just write down main ideas.
Cut back on distractions by moving to a quiet area.
Even if you’re just making a social call, distractions can make a call more difficult. Turn off the television and radio. Move away areas where people are talking in the background.
Greet the person and ask how they’re doing.
When the person picks up, start with a simple greeting. Follow it with a question to get the conversation going, such as asking how the person is doing. The other person will usually pick up on the cue and start talking.
- For example, you could say, “Hey, what’s up?”
- You could also say, “Hi! How are you doing?” or “Hi! What have you been up to lately?”
Ask if it’s a good time to talk.
You may feel uncomfortable on the phone if you’re not sure the other person wants to talk. Take the pressure off by asking about it near the beginning of the conversation.
- For example, you could say, “Do you have a few minutes to talk?” or “Am I catching you at a bad time?”
- Reach out to people that you’re really comfortable talking to in person if you’re a little nervous about chatting with someone new on the phone.
Tell the person why you called if the conversation lags.
Saying why you called usually gets the conversation going. Plus, you’ll feel less awkward because you have stated why you’re on the phone.
- For instance, you could say, “I hope you don’t mind me calling. I just haven’t heard from you in a while. How have you been?”
- On the other hand, you could say, “I’m calling because I wanted to find out more about the meeting we have together tomorrow,” if you’re calling to find out information.
Keeping the Conversation Going
Ask the person about their interests.
If you can’t figure out what to say, try getting the person to talk about themselves. Ask them about something you know interests them. If you’re not sure what interests them, ask a more general question to help learn their interests.
- Try asking them about their family or pets. You could say, “How has Fluffy been lately?”
- Alternatively, you might say, “Have you read a good book lately?” or “Have you seen a movie you liked recently?”
Listen closely and focus on the conversation.
When you’re on the phone, you don’t have a person’s facial expressions to tell you what’s going on with them. That means you have to listen more closely so you can respond to what they’re saying.
- Try to picture what the person is saying visually, which can help you stay focused. Focus on what the other person is saying instead of thinking about what you want to say.
- Try not to get distracted by things in your own environment, like other people, your computer, and so on.
Respond to what they say and take turns speaking.
When the person finishes what they’re saying, add your own thoughts to it. Then, ask them a question in turn to keep the conversation going.
- Remember not to interrupt with your own thoughts! Wait until they’re done speaking to add your input.
- For example, if the person says, “I love going to the park. It’s so bright and beautiful this time of year.” You could say, “Yes, it is lovely. I love seeing all the beautiful blooms. What’s your favorite flower?”
Use open-ended questions to encourage them to talk.
Open-ended questions are ones the person must answers with more than a “yes” or “no” answer. Using 1 or 2 leaves room for the person to say more.
- For instance, don’t say, “Have you heard from your brother lately?” They can answer with “yes” or “no.” Instead, ask, “How has your brother been lately?” That question gives them a chance to expand on the answer.
Express your emotions using words instead of facial expressions.
When you talk to someone in person, you express some things with facial expressions and body language. For example, you might look sad when they’re talking about something sad. On the phone, though, you have to say those things instead since the person can’t see you. Say aloud that you notice the other person is sad, or that you’re upset they’re feeling bad.
- For instance, if the person is telling you about a terrible experience, you could say, “Oh that’s awful. I’m so sorry that happened to you.”
Prepare questions for pauses in the conversation.
Sometimes, the conversation will lag. That’s normal with any conversation, but it can be more awkward on the phone. Remind yourself that it happens to everyone, and then try to come up with a new question to ask the person.
- For instance, you could say, “Have you heard about the town meeting next Thursday?” or “Did you know we’re supposed to get a snowstorm this weekend?”
Wind down the conversation when you’re ready to get off the phone.
If the conversation is lagging, you may want to get off the phone. Let the person know you’re ready to go, and say goodbye.
- For instance, you could say something like, “It was so good talking to you. I hope we get to do this again soon.” That lets the person know you’re ready to go.
- If you’re just setting up a social visit with someone, your phone call likely won’t last more than 15 minutes. If you’re catching up with an old friend you haven’t talked to in a while, the call might last closer to 45 minutes to an hour.
Working on Telephone Anxiety
Practice calling people you’re comfortable with to build confidence.
Call a family member or a close friend regularly. The more you do it, the more comfortable you’re likely to feel on the phone.
- Start with people you feel more comfortable with. Alternatively, try calling a phone you know will have a recording.
Work up to more difficult phone calls to start overcoming your fear.
After practicing with people you’re comfortable with, try people you’re less comfortable with. Work up your ladder of anxiety to help yourself become more comfortable step-by-step.
- For instance, try calling a friend you like but you’ve never talked to on the phone.
- Next, try calling a new friend who you have only met a few times in person.
Imagine a successful call in the past to calm yourself.
Sometimes, if you’re freezing up, thinking about call that went well can give you confidence. For instance, maybe you made it through a whole call without getting tongue-tied. Keep that call in mind as you start a new phone call to remind yourself you can be successful.
- Alternatively, imagine the call you’re about to make. Picture it going just as you want.
- You don’t have to be perfect on the phone. If you’re making a social call, you’re usually talking to people you like. They know you and will forgive any “mistakes” you make. In fact, they likely won’t even notice some of the mistakes you think you’re making.
Picture the person in your head as you talk to give yourself visual cues.
You may have trouble talking on the phone because you don’t have visual cues from the other person. You’re just hearing a voice without a person attached. To help with this issue, create your own visual cues using the person’s face.
- Picture the person smiling or with another benign facial expression.
Use relaxation techniques like deep breathing to calm yourself down.
Try a deep breathing exercise before you start the call. Once you’re on the phone, try some deep breaths when you’re feeling stressed.
- For example, try deep breathing before you make the phone call. Close your eyes, and breathe in to the count of 4. Hold the breath for 4 counts, then breathe out to the count of 4. Repeat several times to calm yourself down.
- Another option is to use a visualization technique before you make a phone call. Using all your senses, imagine yourself somewhere that relaxes you, such as the beach. Try to stay in that relaxed place as you make the phone call.
Talk to a therapist if your fear is affecting your life.
If your phone anxiety is severe and you have other social anxieties, a therapist can help. Many people use therapists to overcome anxiety issues so don’t feel like you’re the only one.
- The therapist can help you through your anxiety and perhaps refer you to a psychiatrist for medication.
- Think about the person you’re calling: What are your common interests? Talk about something they care about, too, so they don’t lose interest.
- You might be surprised with an answering machine or voicemail. Don’t panic Plan ahead, and write out a little spiel in case you need it Include a greeting, your name, the date and time you’re calling, your reason for calling, and the details of how you can be reached.
- If the person is busy or talking to someone else, they will usually ask to call you back. Don’t be offended, or take it personally.