A person on their cell phone.

Have you heard? Introverts hate talking on the phone. They don’t like being interrupted and they wilt away if you talk on and on, especially if you do it on the telephone, not to mention the awkward silences that occur when talking on the phone, or even worse — having to make small talk with someone you don't know very well.

But have you ever stopped to wonder why exactly Introverts dislike using the telephone? Many assume our disdain for phones is about a need to avoid socializing, but it’s so much deeper than that.

There are two main types of phone calls Introverts must deal with — "official” phone calls and personal ones. Both are nightmares to many Introverts, but for different reasons. Stress around official, or work-related, calls can produce "performance” anxiety, and stress around personal calls can produce "connection" anxiety. Here's what's going on.

Why you hate official phone calls

Work calls and other official calls like calling a government agency come with their own special pressures. Work is performance-based, and so a phone call becomes a kind of audition. Whether it’s your boss or a client calling, you must perform on the spot with your best ideas and communication skills without a moment’s notice! And while Introverts feel this pressure with social calls as well, there’s nothing like the tension that comes with high-stakes, career-related calls that demand an instant response.

The deep, slower thinking introvert finds this situation nerve-wracking, if not frightening.

For official calls, the goal is to lessen the time you spend on the phone and better manage the calls you have to make. Let’s look at five ways you can make your phone nightmare more bearable in the workplace. 

 #1:  Set up email as your main form of communication.

Set expectations by asking people to contact you via email and don’t advertise your phone number. Explain that their questions and comments are important to you and emails help you answer mindfully. If you foster a reputation for returning emails in a timely and thorough manner, people will become comfortable with this form of communication, and you’ll be off the hook. And texting, even at work, is becoming more and more acceptable. Sometimes a combination of emailing and texting can cover you if it’s approved by your boss or acceptable to your clients.

#2:  Make regular check-in calls as a preemptive strike.

If you must make calls, call first! Make the call as a preemptive strike so that you can control the time and call at the peak of your energy level. When you are rested and emotionally ready to handle the challenges of phone conversations, you will have a better outcome. You don’t need to spend all your time pre-planning for every eventuality. Make one call at a time and plan for that one. You will have more confidence when you are not caught off guard, and by initiating the call, you are more in control.

#3:  Get comfortable with a little small talk. 

I know, we hate it. But at work, you can’t get away without having a little small talk. So when your extraverted boss calls and asks “How are you today?” and you know they aren’t looking for the real answer, give them what they want … “Doing great, how about you?” will go a long way and make a good impression, even if it feels empty for you. I fought this disingenuous kind of exchange for many years and I’m here to tell you, it’s a losing battle. It’s just the way our society works and small talk is a necessary oil in our social wheels, especially in the workplace where our relationships may not be as close.  

#4: Manage your environment as an introvert.

Anyone can be distracted by noise in the workplace, but as Introverts we are highly attuned to our environment and an uncomfortable or noisy office space can make or break us. As much as possible, create a space that’s right for you … do you feel more comfortable with privacy? Quiet? A space where you don't feel like you're being judged? Intrusions into your space are extra stimulation that you don’t need and can make phone calls even more daunting. By creating a peaceful space for yourself you foster the calm you need to take and make work calls. To be at their best on the phone, Introverts often need a workspace that’s free of distractions.

#5: Slow down and speak clearly. 

When we are anxious, we tend to speak as fast as we can to keep up with expectations. But this is not the way our introverted brains work—we think deeply and slowly—so let your speech mirror this and don’t focus on what the listener might be thinking of you. When we think we’re not “keeping up” it’s easy to feel judged, but be yourself and let the world adjust. It’s more important that you get your message across the way you intended it. If It’s not a perfect response, so what? Give yourself credit for preparing and doing the best you can.

Why you hate personal phone calls

Phone calls from friends and family are a whole different animal, and the good news is you can control them by honoring your own needs. Contrary to some opinions, Introverts don’t hate socializing, but we need our socializing to be meaningful. We have a deep relationship with ourselves, and we want the same with our closest friends. So the real reason we don’t like the phone is that it interferes with our need to make those genuine connections.

For personal calls, the goal is to tailor your phone time to have meaning. Let’s look at five ways we can control our personal calls and get what we need for deeper connections.

#1: Find your kindred spirits.

This is first on the list for a reason. If you are willing to chat on the phone with a friend, let it be a chosen kindred spirit. The lack of non-verbal cues, like body language and facial expressions, makes personal calls very unfulfilling for Introverts, but with a close friend who “gets” you, some of those gaps can be filled. For example, when we take time to think, the person on the other line who can’t see you may not understand the silence—unless they really know you. Your tribe will know that you honor them by carefully forming your responses, and they may even share your need for more meaningful conversations. 

#2: Transform the dreaded small talk.

While small talk can be a necessary part of work life, you can minimize it in your personal life. There is nothing worse for an introvert than being held hostage on the phone by a small talker. So honor your own need for depth by shifting the phone conversation to something more meaningful. If you ask a friend how they are doing, and you get the cordial “great, thank you,” don’t leave it at that. Train your friends and family for more transparent conversations by asking questions that show interest in them, like “I know you had a rough day Wednesday, did anything get resolved?” If you endure the empty small talk too long your introverted soul will become malnourished, and you may avoid talking to them altogether. 

#3: Ask for time to form your thoughts.

This is difficult because it makes us feel stupid. Our society equates fast talking and thinking with intelligence, but we know better. Our slower response time is not due to a lack of smarts— it’s due to the value we place on sincere and thoughtful answers. In fact, Introverts can be very confused when we’re called “anti-social.” The truth is that we dislike the phone because we value our relationships, and we don’t want to give them less than our best. Your tribe will understand this, so explain it to them. 

#4: Allow for the uncomfortable pause.

No matter your politics, an introvert must appreciate the long pauses of President Barak Obama, who confidently bore his soul during long stretches of silence in almost every interview. He took the time needed to think about what he would say and how he would say it and never seemed to worry that he kept anyone waiting. The result was a powerful presence filled with anticipation for what came next—his deeply-processed and carefully-formed message. Your friends and family will learn to expect the same from you and will come to anticipate quality over quantity when you speak to them, even on the phone. 

#5 Get familiar with your energy tank.

Get in touch with the types of phone conversations that drain you, and the ones that fill you up … in other words, know what fills your tank. We all have a certain amount of energy to expend throughout the day, and we are energized in different ways. Introverts are energized by going inward, but we can also get a boost by taking a cherished kindred spirit inward with us, into our rich inner universe, even if you do this over the phone. This is a gift that one should never take lightly, because a friend like this can help fill your tank almost as well as alone time. 

Wrapping it up

Whether you are limiting calls or managing them, the bottom line is making the phone work for you so that you don’t work so hard while you’re on the phone. The other thing to remember is that you are not alone in this and that most Introverts have some kind of objection to phone calls for many different reasons. The ones I’ve shared here are related to performance anxiety, and to trouble getting below the surface. Whatever the case, free yourself from guilt, self-doubt, and pressure associated with calls, and make your phone a tool in your belt, not your master.

Becky Green
Becky Green is a Social Worker and MBTI® Practitioner certified by The Center for Applications of Psychological Type. Becky loves to explore human differences, and she is convinced that proven typology tools can help us foster compassion today when it's sorely needed. Her INFJ happy place is writing in her home office with 432 Hz music playing and a dog named Rocker on her lap.