Off the Hook: Introverts Avoiding Phones

I don’t like phone calls. I didn’t get a cell phone for the longest time and was happy to pass it along to our son when he was ready for one. When I did get another of my own, it took me literally months to remember the number, and I turned it on only when I had to. Now that I have a smart phone, I use it all the time–just not as a phone.

I used to think that one reason I don’t like telephones is that, when I was growing up, calls from our farm (30 miles from town) were long distance to any of my friends, so I never got in the habit of chatting on the phone while lying on my bed with my feet in the air, twirling my hair. That might be part of it, but I think there is another reason.

I have noticed over the years that many my friends and family members who are more introverted than extroverted also tend to avoid phone conversations whenever they can, regardless of where they grew up. Sophia Dembling in her blog “The Introvert’s Corner” puts it bluntly: “I hate the phone. Hate it. Hate. It.”

My extroverted friends definitely don’t understand. I can hear it in their voices when, on the rare chance I do answer my phone (I almost wrote “pick up” the phone, but that’s not quite what we do anymore, is it?), they say, “Oh! I didn’t expect to get you in person.” Accusatory pause.

Thank goodness for 21st century alternatives. Just as email provides a distancing of time and space not afforded by having to respond immediately to a voice in your ear, texting offers a similar buffer zone for the “in your face” (or in your ear) intensity of a real-time phone conversation. Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, explains:

“I think part of the reason texting is so popular is that it’s a way of to connect with people without having to be on. It’s asynchronous communication, you’re not looking at the person at the time, and we all crave that a little bit.”

When I do need to talk on the phone, I’ve found that doing something physical at the same time, such as a walk or drying dishes, helps to keep me focused on the voice on the other end of the line and keeps me from feeling trapped. Whatever the reason, if I’m doing something else, even pacing, while on the phone, I enjoy the experience a little more, or at least I dislike it a little less.

[I have a caveat to add here: I do relish long phone conversations with family members and close friends whom I don’t see in person often.]

Another tip to manage phone discomfort is to lump all the calls you have to make together and schedule them for a specific time, then line them up and tackle them one after another. No excuses. No procrastinating. Like ripping off a bandage.

dusty phonePhone photo credit:

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