January 8, 2011

Speaking the Warmest Regards

If there is such a thing as talking-on-the-phone-phobia, I think I had it. The idea of talking on the phone has always given me anxiety thoughts like, "what will we talk about" and "what if the other person gets bored" and "when do we say goodbye?" I'm not sure where, how and why I developed this fear but this year it is coming to an end. Already I've started calling people just to chat, instead of sending emails, posting on Facebook or using the dreaded texting.

Reflecting back on my Telephone History, I wonder if it was the work I did in high school as a telephone interviewer for my mom's company? After school I would go to her office, hidden away in an ancient, moldy house, and make hundreds of phone calls to strangers to get their opinions on the latest political issues, their entertainment choices and use of products. It required bravery to call number after number, hoping (or perhaps dreading) that people were home and that they would actually want to talk. The secret was to smile when you were talking, people can hear it in your voice.

Growing up, my mom was the super phone talker. She was always on the phone, at work or at home, easily chatting with everyone and anyone. My mom is incredibly friendly and can pick up a conversation and engage a person with her easy-going style and sweet voice. I was always so jealous of her phone and would create distractions while she talked. I was like a lonely cat searching for attention. She would extend the phone cord to its fullest length, all the little curls stretched out, as she sequestered herself in the laundry room to get away from my distractions. On more than one occasion, the phone base pulled off the kitchen wall as she curled around the corner.

So, perhaps my dread of phone calls has a few sources. But it is also that I really do prefer seeing people face-to-face when I'm speaking with them. Pacing a conversation is difficult for me when I only hear a voice. Often I end up talking over someone or rushing to fill the silences when I can only hear their voice.

During this stay-cation I've called numerous friends across the country and have loved connecting. The secret is to allow for the pauses and to be in the moment with however the conversation flows. Saying goodbye is still a challenge. It reminds me of when I use to work for a photographer who, at the end of every personal or professional phone conversation, said goodbye with a crack of his voice as if he were about to cry. Hearing him always broke my heart a little. Saying goodbye is always hard for me too, what if we never speak or see each other again? In the UK people end a phone call with a high-pitched sing-song "goodbye!" That seems like the other extreme. Should I say "take care, talk to you soon, or see you later?" Or perhaps, "you are in my thoughts or I love you" unless of course they are just a telephone interviewer. Actually, they need the warmest regards.