Generation Telephonophobic?

“Allison,” my supervisor said, “can you please call this list of organizations, and see if they’d like to be involved in our event? See if you can schedule a time for us to meet with them next week.”

“Of course!” I’d reply. But I dreaded the terrifying task. I would go over and over in my mind what I might say to these unsuspecting strangers. What if I forgot what company they were with, or why I was calling? What if they were rude? My young hands shaking, I’d reach for the receiver and dial, holding my breath, staring at a script I’d made for myself for just about any scenario. And then – I’d get a voicemail. Oh no! I had not prepared for this! What should I say? What information should I give? What if the machine cuts me off? Beeeeeep. Show time. 

These mini panic attacks over simple phone calls were common to me when I first began my internships, despite my college experience as a telephone interviewer. And so, it’s bittersweet for me now to see my interns, who may have even less experience, try to mask their terror when I ask them to make calls.

Is it just me, or does no one know how to use a telephone anymore? Sure, we can use a cell phone to text, email, play games, find information, and so on – but can we still use it to actually call someone? Is my generation so used to zapping information back and forth at the speed of satellite that we are unable have real conversations?

In this information age I am finding myself at a loss. As a PR professional, I pride myself on my ability to communicate both efficiently and politely; however, I am finding myself questioning those skills.

Holding telephone conversations is becoming a lost art, and it is  a skill that young professionals must develop in order to be in the communications business. Check out these phone strategy tips, courtesy of Regina M. Robo. 

Phone strategy

  • Treat the call as if it were a meeting – have a purpose, and an agenda.
  • Decide what you’ll do if someone answers other than the person you’re calling. Would you prefer to leave a message, go to voice mail, or call back later?
  • If you’re on a scheduled call, be at your desk at the appointed time.
  • Learn the names of the people who answer the phones at the numbers you call most frequently. Speak pleasantly to them, and if you talk to them very frequently, send them a card or gift on their birthday or over the holidays.

What do you think? Do you know anyone who is afraid of the phone? What  bad or awkward habits have you experienced during phone conversations? What advice do you have for young communicators?


4 responses to this post.

  1. Nice post. I would have to agree that most of the younger generations do not seem to possess the same conversation skills that most adults do. Everyone seems to text now days, which is seemingly detrimental to their writing skills as well, given all the weird fragments and abbreviations that are widely accepted via text. However, I will say that this technology has also been extremely helpful in the insurance world. Talking on the phone is decently efficient because both parties are focused exclusively on the conversation and it is sometimes helpful to get all the information needed this way. On the other side though, people often times don’t speak clearly on the phone, or their is some scratchy interference, or their is a crying baby in the background, etc. So text messaging and emails have proved extremely useful, especially with very busy clients who can only afford to give a brief moment of their time at any given moment. So although we are not having the conversation like we used to, we are in some ways able to communicate better and more efficiently. To counteract the loss of human interaction I always try to meet the client in person at least to issue the policy and exchange signatures so that we can at least end on a more “normal”, albeit traditional context.
    Do you find the use of text messages, facebook, and emails to be more of a detriment or an aid in your line of work?


    • Posted by allisonbroyles on September 7, 2011 at 7:59 pm

      Thanks for commenting! I agree that texting is horrible for grammar skills – although it probably helps us as far as brevity goes. Interpersonal skills are so important in any line of work where you’re dealing with others – which applies to most jobs in business and communications. Email is a great way to stay organized and is often an easier way to share extensive/detailed information, and texts and Facebook can be great for catching someone on the run – but some things are best done over the phone, especially when you are trying to make a deeper connection with that person. Emails are also often easy to ignore and forget about. I’ve been guilty of it, too – getting an e-mail and shoving it in my “To Follow-up With” folder (a.k.a. the “Email Graveyard.”) I find that oftentimes a call, either on its own or following an email, is the most efficient way to reach someone.


  2. I too have this anxiety! I write entire scripts sometimes before making a phone call. An outline with all questions you have usually will suffice. My tip is make sure you are alert and prepared before making an important phone call and misrepresenting your employer or yourself. My worst fear is the answering machine. I do not want to say too little nor too much. I also hate the fake voice that suddenly awakens the minuite I hear that “beeeeeeep.”

    I truely believe this is a skill that more young proffessionals should review and practice.


  3. Oh and spell check! Whoops! 🙂


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