Before you make a phone-call do you practice questions? Rehearse things to say in case the conversation dries up? Practice being witty, charming, try not to sound stupid, and prepare a message just in case voicemail kicks in?
For some people, rehearsing a phone-call is reserved for phoning their boss, for others, it is calling for pizza, but for many, and maybe you are one of them, it is practically every call you make.
If you practically write a whole script, this preparation can often make things worse, as the person on the other end is not aware of your script. You lose your place, you overthink, it’s not as funny when you say it out loud.
If any of this is sounding familiar I want to talk about why you do this, and how you can do it differently.
Why do you rehearse what you are going to say on the phone?
There are many reasons, but these are the ones I hear most often, and also include some of my own. Yes, there was a time in my life that I rehearsed phone-calls. Happy to say I don’t need to do it now.
That does not mean that every call I make is a masterpiece. I mess up, forget what I was calling for, possibly have sounded dumb on more than one occasion, but the great thing is, now I don’t care. I’ll talk about this in a minute.
Reasons why people rehearse their phone-calls in advance.
- I don’t want to appear stupid
- I want the other person to like me
- I get anxious when there is an awkward silence
- I want to avoid the awkward silence
- I’m scared they will ask me something I don’t know
What happens before you make the phone call?
You have your script all written and you’re just about to make a phone call. I’m guessing you’re not able to make it straight away because even though you prepared, you’re still anxious, so it might take two or three goes before you make the call.
What happens during the phone call?
This part can be really anxiety provoking because you have prepared a script and the other person may throw you off balance. They might say something you were not prepared or throw you off script. You can loose your place.
What happens after the phone call?
The Analysis. You check to make sure that all your points got covered. Did you sound like a fool, did you sound like a fraud, did the other person think you’re crazy?
What’s really behind the reasons that you rehearse a phone call?
Feeling anxious, that almost goes without saying, force of habit, you’ve always done it as a way to soothe your nerves.
But it doesn’t actually soothe your nerves, it gives a temporary reprieve, a quick fix, it it were a permanent fix you would not need to do it again.
In my opinion, if you really want to pick up the phone without thinking about it, you might need to look at your core beliefs. You can read more about core beliefs here (it’s a post on CBT and core beliefs are half way down the page!). If you don’t want to read about them in depth now, you can think of core beliefs as being the guiding force behind things that you do (except that you are not aware of them!)
Core beliefs can be
- You might not feel good enough
- You may feel like a fraud
- You might think that you’re stupid
- Not competent
- Not capable
As you go about your day you’re not really aware that you have core beliefs. You don’t wakeup in the morning and think I wonder what my core belief is and how it’s going to affect me today, but they are there, guiding everything that you do.
For example, if you believe that you’re not confident and that you’re not capable, you won’t have the confidence to just make a phone call without thinking about it. Your core belief would expect you to get it wrong or mess up, hence you will feel the need to prepare for beforehand to prevent the phone-call being a disaster.
I hope you are beginning to see that it’s not just something simple as not being able to make a phone call without preparation. It’s not about the phone call as much about what you really believe about yourself.
So. How to make a call without all the advance preparation?
To answer that quickly you need to change your core beliefs and you need to practice doing it differently.
Why do you need to change them and what and why do you need to practice?
Your core beliefs are guiding you without your knowledge. If they are steering you in an unhelpful way, you need to change them.
You need to practice making calls without the preparation, as the way you are doing it now will almost be habitual – an automatic process. Somewhere over the years your brain has learnt that you need to rehearse what to say on phone calls. You probably feel that it makes you more prepared and eases your anxiety about the call; but it doesn’t fix the problem. If it did, you would rehearse once, your brain would feel you’ve got this and all future calls, you would just hit dial!
Practicing doing things differently helps you change the beliefs you hold about yourself.
If you start practising making calls without rehearsing what to say, you won’t like it at first. You might get so anxious that you mess up the call and convince yourself that rehearsal is necessary. But persevere.
The more times you hit dial, without rehearsing what to say first, the more confidence you will gain.
Eventually you should discover that it is easier, as having a script means that the other person has to practically follow your script to make it go well!
Repeated practice eases your anxiety about the call and shows you that you are capable and confident enough to make calls without rehearsing what to say first. In doing so, you are changing your core beliefs!
If you want to learn more about habitually ways of responding that might not be helping you, a good place to start is reading about the automatic process behind anxiety.