Why I Don’t Return Your Phone Calls

“Did you get my message?” “No, how strange!” Yes, I did. “Sorry, I just didn’t find the time to return your call.” I spent 3 hours binging on Netflix last night. “I lost your number.” Liar liar pants on fire.


I am absolutely terrible at returning phone calls, but it isn’t because I’m forgetful or lazy or selfish. It takes more physical energy than I often have to do so.


Before I make a phone call, any phone call not to my husband in fact, I have to gear up. I have to breathe deeply and repeat to myself over and over again what I’m going to say. For me, phone calls are anxiety inducing. I mean, a lot of things induce anxiety for me, but phone calls are high on the list.


You see, phone calls are filled with the worst parts of social interactions: chit chat, hesitations, and miscommunication. Add in bilateral hearing loss, and it’s the stuff of nightmares. It’s impossible to read whether the person on the other end of the line is getting ready to say something, done speaking, or just taking a sip of water. There are no facial expressions to read as to whether or not I’ve made a fool of myself or not.


I asked my fellow Literally, Darling writers if they had similar feelings and it turns out they did! Below are their own experiences.


Phone calls are the worst. I am so much better if I can communicate via writing. Although, various jobs have stripped away most of my phone anxiety over the years. Sometimes you just have to make a phone call. But there is still one problem that plagues me to this day that I cannot work around: I sound exactly like my mom on the phone.


We do not sound the same in person, but for some reason the phone makes us sound identical. I have had too many awkward conversations to count with people who assume I’m my mom and don’t understand when I try to politely explain that I am not. Even clearly answering the phone by saying, “Stough residence, this is Maggie speaking,” has done little to remedy the situation. Most people seem to ignore it, despite the fact that I’ve never heard my mom answer the phone so formally.


But now that I am living on my own and can decide whether or not to answer a phone call from an unknown number and don’t have to worry about being mistaken for my mom, phone calls aren’t so bad. I still prefer emails and texts.

—Maggie Stough


I’ve been terrified to make phone calls since I was old enough to have a phone. I’m not sure what it is about being on a phone that is so much worse than meeting someone in person or sending an email — it makes me feel vulnerable and exposed. I’ve tried volunteering on hotlines, calling someone every time I have something to say, every trick in the book. Nothing calms my nerves about making a phone call.


Somehow, no matter how many times I register my phone number on the federal “Do Not Call” list, I get almost nothing but phone calls from telemarketers and spammers. This only makes my anxiety even worse because it forces me to answer a phone and tell someone “No, please stop calling me,” while answering the phone waiting for an important phone call. If there is one thing I hate worse in this world than getting on the phone, it’s rejecting someone and telling them to buzz off.


I’m not sure how long it will take to finally get over this fear I have, but until every single appointment and conversation can be done through an online interface, you can find me psyching myself up for an hour before ordering a pizza.

–Emmy Boyd


Nothing strikes fear into my heart quite like my phone ringing at work. Now that I’m in my mid-twenties, and three years into a full-time office gig where a phone is several inches from my face at all times, you’d think I’d be over it. But at this point in my life I’m an avowed advocate of written communication, and I don’t think that’s going to change.


I blame it on a lot of different things. Social anxiety. My introverted nature. The years I spent earning an English degree and perfecting the art of writing down my thoughts. The fact that I can’t read your body language or see your face if we’re on the phone–although, quite frankly, I’d much rather read a text or reply to an email than listen to the inflection in someone’s voice, so this last one is mostly a lie.


I think the biggest problem is that phone calls are usually unexpected. I might make a date to call a really good friend on the phone, but I can guarantee that if you catch me unaware, it will go straight to voicemail. I keep my phone on silent 95% of the time, because I hate the thought of it ringing when I’m in the middle of something.


It’s not that I don’t ever want to hear from my friends and family, but I feel an unexpected phone call is almost as bad as someone showing up suddenly on my doorstep. I might be happy to see them, but it would be nice if they’d shoot me a text before showing up.  


–Rachel Ginder

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