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I don’t like to talk on the phone

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how much I dislike phone calls. I don’t mind a quick call here or there (though I prefer a text message,) but any long call that involves important decision making or conversation I dread. I wasn’t sure if it was just me, or even why I felt that way. It seems like I’m not alone as D. Keith Robinson recently discussed a similar dislike and got a resounding response in the comments. Here’s what I’ve figured out:

  1. I love email and even text messaging.
  2. I love talking face to face.

For a long time, I dismissed my dislike of the phone as an affectation of my shyness. Why then do I like talking to people face to face? It would seem that that would make a shy person even shyer. The more I think about it, the more I realize there are two other factors that make me hate the phone.

Turn Based Communication

I think one of the biggest issues that arise when two humans communicate is the understanding and respect of whose turn it is to talk. It’s easy to talk with someone when it’s clear when they’re done speaking and it’s my turn. Then there aren’t interruptions, and the conversation goes back and forth, like a game of pong, without error.

With email, this concept of turn based conversation is taken to the extreme. Your turn isn’t up until you’ve finished a thought and hit send. When you get an email, you know it’s your turn to respond when you’re done reading. There’s no interrupting each other. Maybe this is why I love long email chains.

In a face to face conversation, you can use body language to signify you would like to add to the conversation. This lets the other person know they should pause, that you would like it to be your turn. It’s also much easier to graciously interrupt if you have something pressing to say or the other person is getting long winded.

On the phone there’s no way to tell if you or the other person wants to take their turn. Anyone who’s been on the phone with a salesman knows this. Salesmen love the phone because they can just ramble on and on and on (see Boiler Room.) As someone who was raised not to interrupt, this adds to the stress level since I don’t want to be rude but would like to put in my two cents.

Ramble On

Many people are verbose. I’m as guilty as the next guy for often going on, and on, and on. If someone sends you a long email, you can skim through it, omitting entire sections, to get to the heart of the matter. When you’re in person it’s much easier to be interested in what someone is saying—you can make eye contact, laugh, and more easily offer witty asides and quips. On the phone, I feel trapped. If the person I’m talking to launches into a long diatribe, I’m stuck, locked into my seat until the ride is over. This feeling leads to stress and anxiety, especially if I see a call coming in for a notorious rambler.

So it seems that my dislike for the phone isn’t based in some deep-seated social phobia, but rather in my need for structure in a conversation and a love of efficiency.

Justin Dickinson



12 Responses to “I don’t like to talk on the phone”

  1. Teena in Toronto Says:

    I rarely answer the phone … thank goodness for call display!

    Happy blogoversary!

  2. Profunksticated :: Hanging Up on the Phone :: August :: 2008 Says:

    [...] doesn’t much like telephone calls. I stumbled onto a couple of blog posts, here and here, agreeing with this sentiment. I loved talking on the phone as a teenager and college [...]

  3. apsara Says:

    I hate talking on the phone for more than 10-15 mins. I feel it’s a big waste of time..I wud rather something else..Sometime I used to wonder if I am a person who does not want to socialize..i have even thought at times if something is wrong with me..I still do not know..but I hate to talk on the phone even with my boyfriend and my girfriend whom I love a lot. I am scared sometimes if I will loose my boyfriend because of this.

  4. Ana from Colorado Says:

    Kudos!! I dislike talking on the phone for 50 reasons.Some of which you mentioned but my top 2 rerasons are:1) I am in the Telecommunications field(-aka- call center job) so after hearing people talk all around me non-stop for 8+ hrs and hearing the pitch of tiny telephone voices all day I have nothing left to say or hear via a phone line.2)I am a selfish phone person. I only want to talk long enough to say what I have to say or hear what interests me as a result of reason 1.

  5. Jennifer Frank Says:

    I don’t mind talking to my friends and family on the telephone, but I have had the worst experience with phone interviews. I either cut the interviewer off or they cut me off. Besides cell phones are not reliable…my phone died during a phone interview!

  6. Istvan Says:

    I hate to talk on the phone, but only if its something official like when I have to pay my bill, calling the bank, asking about a job. I just get so nervous, even my voice is different, sometimes I even notice its kind of hard to breathe. And of course I get confused, I forget the questions.
    Now what I do is write it down and just read it to the person. But that is not normal. I don’t what to do.
    Though whith my family or friends I have no problem talking to.

  7. Christie Says:

    How great to find others who also hate to talk on the phone. I find it invasive - when it rings, no matter what you’re doing you’re supposed to answer. I really don’t like that. Email is so much nicer, you can respond when it’s convenient, if you send to someone else they don’t have to stop what they are doing. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one with phone issues.

  8. Desiree Says:

    Wow, I honestly thought I was the only one that had this problem. It is such a relief to read your blog. I feel like now I can admit to my friends that I simply do not like chatting on the phone and I can have a valid reason to back it up. Thank you!

  9. Marc Says:

    I despise talking on the phone. Totally hate it. It doesn’t matter the purpose, it’s not for me. Wouldn’t we institutionalize someone who held a piece of plastic to their head talking into it nonstop? Probably not, certainly not, but maybe we should.

  10. Danielle Says:

    I definitely googled “dislike talking on the phone” to see if I was just being weird, and am relieved that so many other people have the same dislike. When I’m having a conversation with someone via text, e-mail, or in person, I am focused on that conversation. But with the phone I get distracted by the tv, the internet, my cat, etc. It’s hard to pay attention. And I HATE personal conversations on the phone. I feel that those are best suited for a face to face environment. So a phone call to me should just be to make plans, clarify something, or any other quick convo. I feel bad because my boyfriend likes to talk on the phone (we live an hour away from each other and are both pretty busy so it can be hard to see each other consistently) and even though I miss him and everything, I just can’t stand it. Now that I know I’m not alone it gives me peace of mind. :)

  11. Saturday's Child Says:

    Ever since I was young, I NEVER liked talking on the phone and I won’t unless I have to. That dislike continues till now. I used to think there was something wrong with me because most of the people I know like talking on the phone. I’d wonder then how come I’m not like them…But that was when I was a little girl. Now I understand it’s all part of who we are and our own personal preferences. I have friends who can yak for hours and I always end up being the listener because they never give me a chance to talk, not that I have much to add. Plus, I get tired and bored during long phone conversation. I realised they can drain out quite a lot of my energy. Also, long, meaningless phone convos are a total waste of time. I’d rather have face-to-face conversations. Text messages are fine, too, but phone calls are just a turn off of me =(

  12. val Says:

    I Thought I was odd or shy to dislike the phone to spend time with someone.
    I have lots relationships because they push me.
    I try to meet their request to have begged phone skills.
    but I usually draw the line when they push their values on me.

    I tell them I will make plans; but not chat.
    If people don’t honor the different styles we have, isn’t that the same as a personal problem?
    We are just out numbered.

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