Does anyone else have a horror of talking on the phone? I have hated using the phone since I was a child, although it is hard to pin down exactly why I dislike it so much. I think my main difficulty is 'reading' how a conversation is going when I can't see the other person. I pause for too long, or jump in too soon, or struggle to pick up crucial info from their tone - is this a bad time to call? am I making myself clear?
I am currently going through a work-related nightmare scenario where I have been asked to make loads of phone calls - in a situation I have always previously handled by email - and I feel stressed and anxious about all the time: anticipating the calls, making the calls, reflecting on the calls. It is supposed to be making everyone feel encouraged, but if any of the hapless recipients are like me they will be thoroughly put off!
I have always thought this was just a random failure on my part, but now I am wondering whether it is integral to my nature.
I have always hated making and receiving phone calls. I've seen quite a few threads about the subject on other autism forums, and it seems to be quite a common thing for autistic folks. I only got my first mobile phone a few months ago, as I just couldn't stand the idea of an instant reply being expected at any instant of the day. I had seen so many people getting worked up because they had to wait a few hours for someone else to respond, it just made me think; "oh great, yet another way for me to inadvertently offend people!". Texts aren't quite so bad, I suppose, as I much prefer to communicate in writing, but I still feel too much anxiety about responding promptly.
I think for me, it's mostly that I seem to take too long to process other people's speech, and I find it very hard to work out how to take turns speaking. I also find that I can never identify a person's voice over the phone no matter how well I know them - the mobile helps with that, as at least I can usually see who has called (I would never reply if it is an unknown number.) The calls where you end up being on hold listening to irritating music are the worst; my anxiety just goes up and up the longer I am kept waiting. Having some generic recorded voice telling me how much they "value my call" only makes it worse, as it just makes me angry to be patronised like that. By the time the call is answered, I'm usually far to flustered to communicate properly and I often end up realising that I've missed saying something important after the call has ended unless I write out a little script for myself in advance.
I can't say I fear phones or at least have never considered it fear. That having been said I seldom make phone calls especially personal ones, as opposed to ones to sort out things like bank account problems. I usually let family phone me than vice versa. It comes down again to initiating a conversation. When someone phones it can be difficult to know when to speak. It can also be difficult to think of a good reply in real time . I put the latter down to slow processing speed.
I don't have a diagnosis, no, and I am not sure whether to broach the subject with my employer or not. It is not unusual in my field, so I am somewhat surprised they haven't thought this through. Some of the people I am calling are very likely on the spectrum too, and I may be causing them anxiety and distress by phoning when they would prefer an email.
I think the lack of thinking time is a big factor for me too. I find that what I say under pressure may not be at all what I would really want to say about any particular topic.
Thanks for all the responses, folks. I feel both reassured that I am not the only one with this fear-and-loathing, and at the same time even more worried about the distress I may be passing on down the line as I phone people who (potentially) don't want to be phoned! I have tried to handle that by emailing people to arrange a specific time to speak on the phone, so that I am not barging in and taking them by surprise, but then why use the phone at all? Grrrrr.
I think I do need to have a conversation with my employer about it - although I am not quite sure how - because even if I manage to complete the task this time around, I know it will come up again in future. And frankly I am quite angry that they haven't thought this through, given the nature of the organisation and the huge range of people we are working with.
On the other hand, part of my problem is that I have got so used to working on my own, and largely on my own terms, that I am simply out of practice in doing the things that one is normally expected to do out there in the world...
I used to have a terrible fear of using the phone until I was put in a situation during my first job in a small shop, where I had to answer the phone. As much as I panicked and probably made a fool of myself, it forced me to practice and get better at taking phone calls. That doesn't mean I like them though. I still hate taking unexpected phone calls and will often put non-scheduled calls through to my voicemail at work. If it is urgent, then they will leave a message. This also applies to my mother, much to her despair.
I am better at handling calls that are scheduled, so I know when to expect them, which is the route you seem to be taking. One thing I haven't mastered is knowing when to speak and I often talk over people or leave top bigger gaps in the conversation. Best thing to do is accept you may never be perfect at it, but you can practice to a point that the anxiety is mostly removed and you are able to handle the calls at least. Try pacing your calls out as well if you can, as taking one call after the next is tasking for anyone! Good luck!