Getting phone calls without a warning. I suck at it.
And it’s getting worse with time.
I’ve gone from politely saying “no thanks”, to being a total bitch to telemarketers.
I can no longer hide my irritation when woken up or interrupted by a call.
I’ve mercilessly stopped picking up from unknown callers altogether.
See, I’m an introvert, and a sensitive one.
I don’t like surprises. I prefer to think before I speak. In fact, I’m not even able to think and talk at the same time. If there’s someone on the other end, waiting for my answer, my mind is blocked.
I also can’t process information over the phone. When I hang up, it’s like my mind is blank. I can’t recall anything of what was said, because I was too busy trying desperately to organize my thoughts into words in real-time.
My brain is wired to communicate in writing.
That’s how I absorb information and can make sense of it.
That’s when I can put my thoughts neatly down into coherent sentences.
But then there are these phone people...
The ones that call you, without warning, at 8am in the morning.
The ones who keep calling when you don’t answer, instead of leaving a message like a decent person.
The ones who call several times in a row because they’ve forgotten to say stuff.
The ones who call because they’re bored.
The ones who call to “get to know you”.
The ones who call to “bounce some ideas off of you”.
This drives me nuts. This drives me bat shit crazy.
My irritation is nothing personal towards the person calling. I do understand and respect that people have different preferences for communication. And in some rare cases, even I prefer to take things over the phone.
But in 90% of the times, a phone conversation is not optimal. And yet it still seems to be many people’s knee-jerk reflex.
I think a lot of people are using phone calls irresponsibly, ineffectively and disrespectfully - without even realizing it.
I wish we would stop assuming that other people are available to us at any time during office hours.
I wish it wasn’t such a given that other people, even if they were in fact available, would be okay with taking something over the phone. Assignment details, interviews, “quick questions”, bad news or whatnot.
And I wish it wasn’t always we, the non-phone-compliant people, who needed to conform to the way other people want to communicate. Always we who’ll feel at a disadvantage. We who’ll need to do extra work.
Because it’s unfair.
Calling someone without warning is like elbowing yourself into their life. Tugging their skirt like a five year old. Popping up like a jack-in-the-box, with complete disregard to what the other is doing at that time.
“Am I calling you at an inconvenient time?”
Sorry, but yes.
For god’s sake, yes.
An unexpected phone call is, by its very nature, inconvenient. Isn’t it?
Apart from all of the activities I could be engaged in at that moment, (like sleeping, being in the bathroom, eating dinner, having sex, cleaning the house, et.c), it is highly likely that I’m deeply immersed in important work or some creative endeavor. I always am.
Seriously, how often do we sit around twiddling our thumbs, waiting for someone to maybe want to talk to us?
How often are we feeling ready to drop everything we’re holding to make new acquaintances over the phone?
When someone new calls me for the first time, perhaps to discuss a possible work assignment, that person might just as well show up at my doorstep unnoticed. Because it feels just as awkward. I would be just as unprepared to make a good impression.
(This is sounding more and more like a rant, doesn’t it?)
The rant continues:
It’s not just the norm of uninvited phone calls that troubles me.
It’s the whole notion of the phone as the go-to mode of communication.
I was a freelance journalist a few years back. This meant that a lot of the editors I pitched articles to later wanted to go over all of the details with me: the angle of the article, its length and format, the persons I would interview, the deadline of the article and my salary.
All very important stuff. Stuff that require some thought, and stuff that you would prefer to have in writing at some point anyway.
But some of my editors would call me up, (usually without making an appointment), and then completely bombard me with questions, information and opinions.
And I would stand there, soaking wet with conditioner still in my hair, struggling to appear professional. And when we'd hang up, I remember absolutely nothing and would need to email this person to get all of the details in writing. Which would take more time out of both of our schedules.
Efficient way of conducting business?
I think not.
When I’m talking to someone, I want to either have them in front of me, so I can interpret their body language, or I want to write to them, so I can interpret and respond to them in a thoughtful way.
Just hearing someone’s voice is so clumsy and artificial. It frustrates me not to have access to all the signals I would have in a face-to-face situation, and not getting my personality across.
Therefor, talking on the phone is always a conscious effort for me. Even with people close to me, and no matter how delightful a conversation we are having.
The days I know I'm going to have to make a phone call, I want it done first thing in the morning or else I wouldn't be able to focus all day. And when I'm calling and the signals go by, my heart is racing. I'm super tense the whole call, afraid of misinterpretations or awkward silence. And when we hang up, I'm utterly exhausted.
This is how much effort even a quick, silly little phone call takes for us introverted, writing-inclined people.
And yet, we put up with it every day because it's the norm.
Instead of call button trigger-happy extroverts having to restrain themselves and organize their thoughts before talking, we have to endure endless interruptions, awkward conversations and a chaotic mess of input.
Is it too much to ask for middle ground?
For an email when an email is fit?
Or at the very least, a respectful “Can I call you?” text message?
Friends, it is time to take a stand.
We introverts demand more respectful telephone practices.
We declare our right to make ourselves non available by phone.
And we ask for equal rights to communicate the way we prefer.
Can we agree to stop chasing each other with our phones all the time?
And can we agree, that just because we have each other’s phone numbers does not mean we have unlimited back door access into each other’s lives?
Great. Let's agree on that.
End of rant.