Phone Phobia

It’s not technically a “phobia” — actually more of a preference — but despite the fact that voicing telephone systems is my bread and butter, I can’t actually stand talking on the phone.

Is that odd?

I’ve always been like that. I come from a family where we talk with brevity, stating our piece, and then get the heck off the phone. Even as a teenager, where many girls my age spent long hours on the phone recapping and analyzing the day with the same friends with whom they had just spent their day, I was prone to lightning-quick homework checks over the phone and that was it.

E-mail has become my preferred mode of communication — and I know I’m not alone in that regard. Many people love the way in which it allows organization of thought and planning of words; and requires less thinking on the fly. You can meter out your reply with as much care (and redos!) as you desire. You have the control of replying when *you* have the time set aside to focus on your response — even if it’s right on the heels of receiving the enquiry.

Increasingly, I’m getting initial e-mails from clients who are interested in me voicing their projects, and in the box in the response form on my website dedicated to obtaining a description of their project, an increasing number of clients simply write “Call me.”

This makes me cringe for several reasons. Calls — if I allowed them to — could take a gigantic chunk out of my day — a chunk better spent in the booth recording.  A description of their project — the length and scope of the project; the mood/feel they’re looking for — and bonus points — attaching even a rudimentary script right out of the gate — will go a long way toward fast-tracking communication, and I can usually render a quote and answer most questions in a good information-filled initial e-mail than I can in a protracted telephone call. Seldom are their requests or needs so complex that I haven’t encountered many similar projects in the past, and I’m more than happy to schedule a follow-up call if their specific requirement still need ironing out. But I’m encountering more and more people who want that initial direct phone contact at the outset (maybe they’re trying to determine that there really *is* a living, breathing entity behind “the voice”? It’s a quality control check? Like sample day at Costco? Or — aha! — they’re surreptitiously recording me for their own text-to-speech application! (“We should talk on the phone about a dozen more times, and I should pretty much have all the information I need…”)

I have a friend (actually, we go far back enough for her to be one of the friends with whom I used to do homework checks — or rather, *she* corrected *my* homework over the phone) — who automatically assumes that if the phone rings, it’s bad news. Even though financially solvent and healthy, and fortunate enough (like I am) to be living a relatively carefree existence, her default thought when the phone chimes is that a bill collector is calling to inform her of financial ruin; it’s her doctor calling, thinking that the “thing” warrants a few tests, or that — especially if the call is especially late night/early morning, someone  must require her assistance in identification at the morgue.

While not that fatalistic, and while I don’t necessarily presume the worst when the phone rings, I do dread the act of outbound calls, and I’m happy to say that my marketing plan of recent years requires less and less cold calling and more fielding of offers which come in. Is this preference for written discourse symptomatic of the more insular life we’re all leading? Is it indicative that we actually *prefer* the detached, somewhat removed nature of “virtual” contact, as opposed to direct, human-to-human interchange? I would have to say a resounding “no” — I’ll still take face-to-face human interchange over practically anything. But I — along with a growing number of people — will limit my time on the telephone in favor of concise, efficient communication via e-mail.

Next week, I’ll interview a colleague and friend of mine — Glenn Howard — about the optimal ways in which to direct voice talent in a voice-over session. Glenn is in a unique position: a former engineer-turned-voice talent, Glenn has spent considerable time on *both* side of the glass, and has a unique perspective on how best to get that perfect performance out of your voice talent — and how talent can hit their mark every time.

Thanks for reading! As always, comments are welcomed and encouraged!



  1. Natalie Said:

    It was SO refreshing to find out that there is someone else who prefers to use the phone as a quick check-up & confirm mechanism, & who uses emails for the deeper aspects of conversing – as well as efficient work.
    I work as an Intake Officer for a huge government department, where I sort out all sorts of difficult situations & refer people on if necessary. I love it & have no problems with using the phone. But at home, when my (adult) kids or friends ring “for a chat”, I dread it & can’t get off the phone fast enough. My children joke that I’ve reached my 10 minute limit because I start to sound twitchy. I wish I could enjoy it more, but I just don’t. Maybe it’s because I need the additional input of the face and gestures rather than just a voice. It’s probably hurtful, but I just can’t help it.

    • voicegal Said:

      I think it’s more common than we think. I also know of a few people who are very expressive in person who appear “flat” and emotionless over the phone. I just don’t think it’s the best medium for communication. I’m wondering if you’ve delved into Skype and if you feel that solves the problems of your needing to “see” as well as hear. I find it pretty handy.
      Thanks for your comments!

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