Dealing with Phone Anxiety and ADHD

Telephone anxiety is its own special breed of Social Phobia. As such, it brings a raft of psychological and behavioral baggage that is not specifically part of the ADHD catalog. Throw ADHD into the mix and you have a new concoction, one that celebrates the fear of navigating the phone with the distraction and rejection sensitivity that we’ve all come to know and love.

This week on the show, Nikki and Pete are kicking off a series on communication and starting with a tool that frustrates many: the phone. From addressing social phobia to building and overcoming the fear hierarchy, we’re all about building a new relationship with the phone today… and maybe even conquering your voicemail!

Links & Notes

Thank you for supporting The ADHD Podcast on Patreon!


Episode Transcript

Brought to you by The ADHD Podcast Community on Patreon

Pete Wright:
Hello, everybody and welcome to Taking Control: the ADHD podcast on Rash Pixel FM. I’m Pete Wright and right over there is Nikki Kinzer.

Nikki Kinzer:
Hello, everyone. Hello.

Pete Wright:
Nikki, you were sick last week.

Nikki Kinzer:
I know. I know. I was sick last week. It’s the first show I have ever done without you.

Pete Wright:
I know, so weird. You didn’t even do the show. You’re delirious.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, it was the only show that I’ve ever not been a part of is what I mean to say.

Pete Wright:
Weird. That’s weird. I hope we did okay.

Nikki Kinzer:
I missed you guys.

Pete Wright:
I know, but it was great. But none of that really matters to our principal conversation today. The most important thing that I need to hear about and I know select listeners want to hear about is how’d you do at The Mentalist Experience?

Nikki Kinzer:
It was so phenomenal. It was so interesting and so weird. And yeah, it was a crazy experience that if you ever have a chance to be around one. it is really amazing. I just don’t know. I don’t want to bore people because it’s hard to kind of explain but there were things that I don’t know how he did it. I don’t know how he figured it out. I don’t know, and we were a part of it. I had a little part of, he had to try to guess which colored dice I had picked and what number I picked and he got both of them right. My friend had to draw something, had to be an object. And she drew a clock at 3 p.m. and he got it right. I know it is the weirdest thing and then there were all these numbers that he had people go around and say “Okay, pick a number one one through 100.”, and six people picked a number. And then out of his pocket, he puts out or he takes out this lottery ticket from New York City three years ago that had the exact same numbers.

Pete Wright:
He did not.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes.

Pete Wright:
Humans are amazing. That’s great.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah. I don’t know how it worked. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know if it was magic, if it wasn’t magic, if he’s just really like, maybe there were cameras all around us and we just didn’t know.

Pete Wright:
Maybe there are just cues. I really believe that we give off cues that we have no idea we’re giving off, that some people are incredibly experienced and practiced at reading. That’s just what they do.

Nikki Kinzer:
I do think that that’s how he figured out my… because my number was two and my dice was black. And he’d asked me-

Pete Wright:
You got two eyes and two nostrils and clearly you were wearing a black jacket.

Nikki Kinzer:
Right. No, no, it was so interesting, though, and then we’ll move on because really, I could talk about this all day. What was so interesting about it is that there’s three dice, there was a black, white and red. And obviously, they were one through six. And he says, “Okay, so pick out, under the table, don’t show anybody what you’re doing, pick out one of the dice, and choose a number and then put it underneath this little teacup.” And so I did it. And I didn’t even have really any thought, because at first I thought, “Well, I’ll pick the red dice.” And I thought, “Well, I’ll do the opposite of what I would pick.” And so I did black, I had no idea what number to do. So I went ahead and just actually put the number, whatever it was on, which was two. So I mean, there was no rhyme or reason for it at all. So then he says, “Well, let me ask you three questions.” First question was, “Are you a morning person?” And I said yes. And then the second question, I can’t remember. But then the third question, he said, “I want you to count one through six.” And so I said, “One, two, three.”, and then he said, “Stop. It’s two.”

Nikki Kinzer:
I’m like, “How do you know that?” And he did give this away. He said because I nodded at two.

Pete Wright:
Oh, yeah, one, two.

Nikki Kinzer:
I went one, two, three, four, five, six but because I nodded without even knowing, he knew that that’s what it was.

Pete Wright:
You played yourself. Oh, I love it.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, so and I do think that there were some cues off of that, like is it a face card or is it a numbered card but I don’t know how he figured out the clock. I don’t know how he figured out the numbers. I mean, it was crazy, crazy, crazy but he was fun.

Pete Wright:
Fantastic. I used to dream like you asked me if I could have any superpower, it was Sherlock Holmes. Just for the longest time as a kid, I wanted to be that observant and I think that’s just mystery. Anyway, we are talking about some really fun stuff today, really fun, if you like phones.

Nikki Kinzer:
And you like anxiety.

Pete Wright:
And you love anxiety, this is the place.

Nikki Kinzer:
And we have a co-host of an anxiety show, of What’s That Smell?

Pete Wright:
If you’ve ever asked what is that smell? I’m the guy. Before we dig in, head over to takecontroladhd.com and get to know us a little bit better. You can listen to the show right there on the website or subscribe to the mailing list, and we’ll send you an email each time a new episode is released. You can connect with us on Twitter, or Facebook at Take Control ADHD. And if this show has ever touched you or helped you make a change in your life for the better, if you’ve ever found that you understand your relationship with ADHD in a new way, we invite you to consider supporting the show directly through Patreon. Patreon is listener supported podcasting. With a few dollars a month, you can help guarantee that we continue to grow the show to add new features and invest more heavily in our fantastic ADHD community.

Pete Wright:
We are wrapping up a blast of a weekend with our very own discord mom, who took over the brain playground and it was fantastic. Members, if you haven’t explored the brain playground, it is available in the stream chat and it’s unbelievably cool. We also have been talking about our next projects, and I’m very excited to tease that they’re great. And so I’m super excited about what we’re going to be doing for this community. So check us out, and we appreciate those of you who are already members, you’re fantastic. If you’re considering, we thank you very much, patreon.com/theadhdpodcast. And we have an announcement, Nikki Kinzer. We have an announcement. It’s that time of year again. The spring bells are ringing. The lilies of the valley are erupting from there. I don’t know anything about plants, but it’s great.

Nikki Kinzer:
And that sounds so beautiful.

Pete Wright:
That means it’s time to get your ADHD in check and you’re going to do it with spring group coaching.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s right, spring group coaching. Enrollment, is that going to be open? It is open. Probably by the time you listen to this podcast, it’s open, and it closes. That’s probably what we need to know more than anything.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Do you know off the top, above your head, right off the dome?

Nikki Kinzer:
I don’t so I’m going to check this out right now. Enrollment closes on March 30th. March 30th is when you have to get your name and make sure you let me know that you’re enrolled and in the program. But yes, it’s a 10 week program. And I’m very excited. I had the opportunity of doing this program with the ball coaching. It’s accountability based but also with some education. Each week, we have a topic that we discuss, but you also check in with what your focus is, what your focus is going to be the next week, and so there’s a lot of support. And it’s a great group of people because all ADHD-ers have charm and charisma, and they’re wonderful.

Pete Wright:
They are. They’re wonderful people.

Nikki Kinzer:
And so it’s just a really fun group to be around. And yes, so spring is coming. So if you want to be part of this group and be part of the support system and education, then please come join us. Love to have you.

Pete Wright:
Outstanding. Okay, we’re talking about phone call anxiety today, Nikki, and ADHD.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes.

Pete Wright:
Where did this come from?

Nikki Kinzer:
First of all, it came from our lovely assistant, Melissa. She gave us some of some topic ideas, so I’m not going to take a whole lot of credit for it. She came up with some ideas around communication because the next few weeks, we want to really kind of focus in on communication and ADHD. And this was one of the very first topics that she brought up and I thought, “Wow, what a great topic.”, because I know with just the clients I work with, that phone calls drive up a lot of anxiety. And there’s a lot of voicemails out there that aren’t getting answered or returned, I should say. And so it’s a really interesting topic. And I think a lot of people actually relate to it. So let’s talk about it.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, let’s talk about it. And so because we’re talking about it as both an ADHD thing and an anxiety, I figure let’s unpack a little bit about of the anxiety stuff first because this is something that affects a lot of people, even who don’t live with ADHD or whose ADHD does not impact them in this particular way. First, step back and think how do phone calls make you feel, right. And there are a lot of words that people toss around with folks. I mean, how do you do with phone calls? Do you have any phone call anxiety?

Nikki Kinzer:
I do. I do actually because I don’t like them, because they’re unexpected. And if I don’t feel like talking to the person at the time that they call, it really throws me off. And now I just don’t answer it. I just let it go to voicemail. But I think that’s the anxiety I get is that I wasn’t expecting this phone call. And now I have this person calling me and do I really want to talk to them at this moment in time. And some people, I do, right. I mean, yay, somebody called and I’m excited. But I actually, even in my business, I stopped putting my phone number on the website a long time ago because I didn’t want people just calling. It’s much easier to get ahold of me via email or scheduling appointments. And so yeah, so I kind of nipped some of that stuff in the bud.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, I feel like I did that too. I mean, I put my Calendly up there so you can actually schedule with me directly on the website, like those things really changed my life in terms of phone calls. But there’s still the other aspect, which is actually making calls, right. The idea of picking up a phone call, and when you read about phone call anxiety, right, the way people like I jump on the anxiety comment, but you got to know. I spend a lot of time in anxiety forums for the other show. So I sort of truck in the space, and you hear people talk about how it makes them sick, how it makes them nauseous, they start shaking, they lose focus, the vision goes blurry, right. They freeze up because they don’t know what to say. They’re terrified of embarrassing themselves. As you mentioned, they’ll delay calls, they’ll avoid making calls. They just are overwhelmed by this spirit of anxiety, and many of them don’t understand that this is a real thing.

Pete Wright:
Phone call anxiety is a real thing. It is a recognized part of social anxiety disorder, which is one of the five major types of anxiety disorders. Quick review, there’s generalized anxiety disorder, GAD. It’s one of my very favorites. There’s obsessive compulsive disorder, OCD. There’s generalized panic disorder. There is post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. And where we’re talking today, social phobia or social anxiety disorder. I prefer social phobia because it’s not SAD, sad. Oh, we’re trying not to be sad, social anxiety disorder.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, that is sad.

Pete Wright:
But here’s what the definition is of the social anxiety disorder. An anxiety disorder characterized by overwhelming anxiety and excessive self consciousness in everyday social situations. Social phobia can be limited to only one type of situation such as a fear of speaking in formal or informal situations, or eating or drinking in front of others, or in its most severe form may be so broad that a person experiences symptoms almost any time they are around other people. So as any spectrum disorder, this impacts people in a lot of different and wonderful and terrifying ways. So we address this first because we recognize that you’re not alone in experiencing this thing. It is real and recognized because there is an army out there of people who don’t appreciate the phone very much, right. And so that’s part of it. Now, why? Without reading ahead, Nikki.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, shit. You caught me. You saw me reading ahead.

Pete Wright:
I am almost a mentalist. That is amazing.

Nikki Kinzer:
I know. I know.

Pete Wright:
Why would you think, right? The number one reason, why would you think that people have so much trouble on the phone if they’re living with this particular brand of social anxiety disorder?

Nikki Kinzer:
I’m going to guess that, I mean somewhat of what you’ve already mentioned, it’s the fear of maybe being misunderstood or the fear of am I talking too long, am I not getting my point across, am I not happy enough, am I too happy?

Pete Wright:
Oh, that’s interesting one.

Nikki Kinzer:
You know, I think it’s just that fear of judgment that you’re going to do it wrong, that somehow you’re going to disappoint the other person on the other line.

Pete Wright:
Yeah. Well, that is certainly a big part of it. There’s a lot of judgment. The number one reason when you talk to professionals about this thing who are studying communication disorder is that it comes, because phone calls are all about the words, right. And communication is mostly not about the words, okay. So unpack that. When you are talking to somebody in a social situation like we are now. Many people don’t recognize, we’re on video right now. So we can see each other’s faces. We can read each other’s social cues when we’re having a conversation. We can raise our hands if we want to interrupt one another, right. There are so many unspoken cues that go in and about having a conversation with somebody when you are human beings, right, when you’re actually engaging with people in real time, face to face. And those facial expressions, body language, all those gestures are completely gone when it comes to phone calls, plain old telephone calls. All you get are the words and intonation.

Pete Wright:
Mostly though, intonation, pauses, those kinds of breaks in speech, when we’re just listening to those and we’re living with phone call anxiety, we read those as negatives, right. A pause is a pause because somebody is judging me, right. A pause or a break in speech is just somebody who doesn’t understand what I’m saying. I’ve confused them. I’ve spoken too fast. And those things are terrifying and they just amplify the social anxiety. So I love this. This is Alison Papadakis, who’s a psychologist at Johns Hopkins. She characterizes phone call anxiety as a race, like phone calls themselves are a race. Until you hang up the phone, you are dancing. Unlike texting or email, which offers you the benefit of time to think, if you pause to think on the phone that communicates uncertainty and doubt and fear and so much that you may not intend, that pressure is exhausting. It is a race to hang up the phone. And I think that is a really great way to characterize just how a lot of people feel about picking up the phone and calling somebody.

Pete Wright:
Jeremy Jamieson at University of Rochester says related to that, “Phone calls are longer than texts and emails.”, right. There is this undue pressure to have this conversation, when if you’re texting, you can take a minute. You can think. You can rephrase. You can delete. If you’re emailing, you can actually pose a thought that you’ve had time to think about before you actually press send. And those things on the phone call can be terrifying. What do you think so far?

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, I think it’s so true. In fact, I relate to this so much, especially the race part, because I think that especially when I’m talking about in my job, in my work, right, if I’m talking to a new client or an inquiry, or I’m talking to a parent who has a student who may want to coach with me, there is this like pressure of, did I say everything I needed to say? And did I answer all the questions? And then even if they asked me a question, I’m not really sure. You have this pressure of I’ve got to answer this question, I should know this question. Then you get off the phone, you’re like, “I wonder how I did. I wonder if they’re going to choose me. I wonder.”, you know, and then you’re ruminating over everything that was just said.

Nikki Kinzer:
And the other thing that I really relate to is that, I think what I was trying to talk about earlier is when you get an unexpected phone call and you’re not really ready to talk to that person, or you don’t really want to talk to that person at that time, it does give you that pressure of I have to put them to voicemail, and then there’s this little guilt that you’re putting them to voicemail because it’s not on your timeframe. And then I feel guilty about that, right. But with texts, you’re right. It’s like they could text me, and I have the freedom then at that point to get back to them when I want to.

Pete Wright:
Right. I think we’re seeing a shift in that guilt piece. I want to come back to that because I think that’s a really great observation about how you feel when you flush someone. And flush is not a great term, but I still love it, when you send somebody to voicemail but we’ll talk about that in a minute. I do want to come back around to this judgment piece because Jeremy Jamieson at University of Rochester, I mentioned earlier, he had this to say about judgment and the social contract, right, all of our survival as humans depends on other people. We are very social creatures. So anytime we put ourselves out there to be evaluated, that produces a lot of stress for us. It’s kind of the same thing as public speaking or going into a job interview, or other sorts of experiences that tap into this evaluation process. People perceive that they might not be able to perform well in those situations. And phone calls are improvisational opportunities for self judgment, right.

Pete Wright:
And we are not all trained improvisers. And that gives us way too much time to reflect on how bad we are at opening our mouths when we don’t have time to actually think about it, yeah. And his observation is that the stakes are actually even higher when you have a closer relationship with the person you’re calling because now you’re thinking, not what you would expect, right. Not that, “Oh, you know, I’m just talking to Nikki on the phone and she understands me, and we’ve known each other forever. And we’re dear friends. And of course, if I screw up on the phone, she’s going to understand.”, which is the reality, right. At least I hope it is.

Nikki Kinzer:
It is.

Pete Wright:
But what I’m thinking in my lizard brain is, “Oh my god. I’ve known Nikki for a long time, and we have this deep relationship having worked together for so long, and if I screw up on the phone, I might damage that.”, right. You are actually-

Nikki Kinzer:
You go to the castrophizing it, I can’t say that word.

Pete Wright:
Catastrophizing, yeah. Exactly.

Nikki Kinzer:
Thank you. Right, yeah.

Pete Wright:
Catastrophic thinking is always in the back pocket of those living with anxiety. I mean we talk about it on every single episode of What’s That Smell? It is the way our brains work. It’s just the planet out around, which we orbit is being able to magnetically find the center, the beating heart of the catastrophe that’s always at hand.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes, worst case.

Pete Wright:
Worst case scenario, right. And so that inexperience is something we have to acknowledge. That inexperience you just don’t pick up the phone that often, right, especially now. You know, how much do we love saying oh kids today, right, oh those.

Nikki Kinzer:
We had that home phone.

Pete Wright:
We had that, oh God. When I used to carry around with a 45 foot stretched out cable around the-

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes, around the corner. Yeah.

Pete Wright:
Exactly. Well, we had more practice picking up the phone. It was part of our cultural identity. We learned to make calls earlier. We made more calls more frequently. And even dumb calls, we made a lot because we couldn’t find out answers online. So we had to call the deli to find out if they had our pulled pork in, or we had to do those things. We don’t have that-

Nikki Kinzer:
Call the movie theater to find out what movies are playing and when.

Pete Wright:
Exactly. This is movie phone, right. I mean, we had to do that. And younger generations right now have less experience doing that so the pressure is higher for the calls that they do have to make, the stakes are generally and observably higher for them.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s a good point.

Pete Wright:
So these are all things related to the phone call anxiety part. We doing okay so far? As I’m spouting all this stuff out at you.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yes. Great.

Pete Wright:
All right. So let’s talk then about ADHD and calling. I have a hunch that ADHD exacerbate exacerbates existing phone anxiety that-

Nikki Kinzer:
I think you’re right.

Pete Wright:
Yeah, but if you don’t have phone anxiety, you can perform just fine with ADHD. And I did some rigorous empirical research, asking a couple of friends and so, terrible research. But I asked them with their ADHD, do they care about phones? And all three of them said, my massive sample size, “Oh yeah, I don’t think much about it.”, they don’t care about phones. And that was one of them said, “I don’t care. I don’t care about calls. I’ll make calls. I might sound like an idiot. I don’t feel anything about it.”, their ADHD is not impacted this way, right, or does not impact them this way. But if you already have some phone call anxiety, then my goodness, the ADHD symptoms rear their heads. First of all, You have to deal with the distraction factor, right. Getting on the phone is troublesome because it’s only giving you one sense, right.

Pete Wright:
That sense, you just have to focus on one sense, but what about what’s going on around you that the listener can’t see you looking at, right? They don’t see that you have a dancing bear right in front of you, and you love that bear and you want to play with that bear. And actually that bear is, you know, your sunglasses, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a dancing bear, right. Okay, so you have to figure out like how to deal with that distraction and the absence of other sensory activation. One of my favorite movies, not because it’s a great movie was Daredevil, you know, the Ben Affleck movie. It was not a great movie, but there is an incredible scene where you can visualize what it’s like to go blind and hear the world, but actually see the shapes of the world come around as this kid is sitting in this hospital room, and he bangs the bed and the echo, he’s like a dolphin, right. It’s like echolocation, and he sees the shapes of the room appear in the sound waves around him.

Pete Wright:
And that’s the visualization of Daredevil’s superpower. And it’s amazing. It’s just a beautiful thing. And I think about that all the time because I think, “Well, if I close my eyes and then I hit something, will I be able to see the room?”, well, I can’t because I don’t do that. But I do love this idea that if one of our senses are occupied, the others get sharper. That doesn’t happen. You see that is a complete fantasy, and so the absence of hearing, having that being occupied on the phone, I just become a complete mess with the other senses. They just want all the attention. I want to eat constantly on phone calls, raise your hand if you eat on a call.

Nikki Kinzer:
You’re smelling everything.

Pete Wright:
Oh, gosh, I smell laundry. Give me some more of them dryer sheets. Like it’s just one of this, so what do you do? You avoid making the calls, you avoid phone conversations, right. You flush and feel guilty about sending calls to voicemail. Our very good friend, you may recognize his name, Ari Tuckman from last week. He actually wrote a piece that I didn’t even know he wrote, Melissa found this. This is fantastic. He says, this was from November 14th, 2009, ADDitudeMag piece on ADD phone anxiety. And he has a couple of these wonderful little quips to say. He says, “I often say jokingly that not listening to a voicemail should be one of the diagnostic criteria of ADD.”

Nikki Kinzer:
True. And you can relate to that, right?

Pete Wright:
This particularly, we’re going to talk about that. That was one of the best things I ever did in my life. He says, “Talking on the phone is harder than talking in person because your attention wanders, you don’t have visual feedback.”, that is a huge challenge, right. So here’s what we need to do. We need to do some cognitive restructuring. We’re going to replace negative thoughts with our positive thoughts. That’s what we’re doing when we’re doing this cognitive restructuring. So you’re thinking about like you brought up being bothered, right, and that you send the calls voicemail. Well, if my anxiety in calling you is, oh my gosh, and now you’ve totally planted it in my head, that when I call Nikki, I’m going to bother, right, then I have to find a way to reframe that, otherwise the negative will stick.

Pete Wright:
And so I might reframe that saying to myself, “You know what, if she’s really too busy to talk to me, why would she answer the phone? If I’m really bothering her, she’ll send me to voicemail, and that’s okay because now is not the time to talk. I don’t want to talk to Nikki if she feels bothered by my call. Now is not the time. She’s not going to be in the mood to receive that call.”, so it’s okay, right. We got to reframe and look at the other side of fears. And so we have this thing. This is part of exposure therapy that we’re building a fear hierarchy to expose ourselves and practice getting to the other side of this particular phobia or anxiety disorder. This is what we do.

Nikki Kinzer:
Is this something that you, like did you make this up, or is this like therapy thing that people do?

Pete Wright:
No. This is a practice. [crosstalk 00:27:14] so for me, I have a phobia of needles. I pass out. When needles get close to my inner forearm, it is a long running thing. It’s plagued me as a kid, as an adult, I just roll over. And now the nurse just says, “Look at the little ducky picture.”, and my eyes cross and I go down. So I have to go through this sort of cognitive restructuring and build the fear hierarchy. Now when I went through this, they didn’t do it. They didn’t call it the fear hierarchy, but that’s what it is. You take the things that you are scared of about this experience. And then you rank order them from least scary to most scary. So for me, it was like looking at a needle. I don’t have a problem looking at a needle, right. What about touching a needle? You know, ironically, I don’t have a problem I’m touching a needle. What about me touching a needle and actually touching the metal part of the needle and rubbing it on my own skin? I don’t have a problem with that either.

Pete Wright:
I’m 100% in control of that, I can do that. And so they give you the tools to actually practice all that stuff on yourself, like with yourself. And slowly but surely, the things that you are scared of come more into focus. And for me, it’s when somebody else has the needle close to my forearm, right, or close to my body. So in my case, I had to confront all of those when my dad had his quadruple bypass surgery, and they actually put the IV in his neck. And that was a terrifying and horrible thing, but once you go through that, that exposure desensitizes it to you. And that is what happened to me and I feel better about it. So we have to build our hierarchy of fear around phony anxiety, right. That’s a big thing, to get yourself in a practice of overcoming the things that you’re terrified of.

Pete Wright:
So in this case, the fear hierarchy starts with maybe calling a number that you know will only have a recorded message, right, like a customer service line, pick up the phone, and just seeing just go through the action of putting it to your head and listening and hanging up, right. Then number two, maybe you call a family member, a friend that you know well, somebody who you can have a light conversation with, and move through again picking up the phone experience. Now you’re going to engage in a conversation for a little bit and then hang up. Maybe you say goodbye first. You know, depends on how well you know them.

Nikki Kinzer:
Does that give another anxiety about who hangs up first? I just thought of that. Sometimes there’s anxiety around, okay, I know I’m done with this conversation, but maybe they’re not. And so I have to wrap it up and then I wonder if I wrapped it up too soon.

Pete Wright:
That’s definitely, it can be a part of it, yeah. If that plagues you, yes.

Nikki Kinzer:
Yeah, I have that. Hands up.

Pete Wright:
Well, that’s why in movies, they never have to do that, because you notice in conversations in movies never end with goodbye. They just end the conversation and they hang up, because they’re done. People just are done with that convention. But let’s go through to some of the even more scary things, right. Then you call a business and ask a question, like when they close or where is my pulled pork, or call someone you don’t know with a simple question, like all of these are amping up certain elements of the fear anxiety response, right. Finally, you get to probably the hardest things, right. Yeah, calling somebody that you don’t know well, about a complicated issue, right, something that you might otherwise deal with in an email because you don’t want to make that call. If it’s because you don’t want to make that call, maybe part of the exposure is to make that call.

Nikki Kinzer:
That’s so true, especially when it’s a sensitive subject.

Pete Wright:
Absolutely.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s so easy to just think, “I’ll send them an email.”, but it’s so much better to confront the uncomfortableness that you’re feeling, the anxiety that you’re feeling and make that call.

Pete Wright:
That’s right. And then we add the icing on the cake, the pièce de résistance of fear. Make all of those same previous calls in front of one person. Just somebody who’s sitting in the room, and then try doing it again in front of a group of people.

Nikki Kinzer:
Now what’s the purpose of that though? Because you’re not going to be doing that on a normal day to day basis anyway.

Pete Wright:
Really? You’ve never had a job at a call center? You’ve never had a job in an open plan office? This is the context of these phones, because the people who are feeling that anxiety, they don’t like using the phone at work at all because people are around there constantly half listening to half the conversation, right. That’s when that anxiety rears its head the most. And arguably, it’s most important that you get over that because a lot of places that require you to be making calls or engaging with the phone, they’re doing it probably in some cockamamie open plan office and it’s just bad, or the worst, do you have a small office? My first job, it was a small office. We all had half stupid cubicles, right. So you didn’t even have the illusion. You had the half illusion. So you could see everybody’s heads. You could hear everything, but you had this stupid half wall that was just like, “You know, we thought about putting cubicles and then we thought, no, we hate you. So we put half cubicles to really hammer it home.”

Pete Wright:
So those are the constraints. We have two or three people in an office and only one person has to make a phone call, who’s going to pick up the phone and make that phone call? Can you imagine the anxiety that comes around that? It’s terrible. So you’ve got to get to the other side of that piece, and learning how to make it a performative experience, something that you just recognize, I have to get to the other side of this, that’s really important. So we have a couple of possible solutions that I want to talk about as we wrap up. Number one, make use of visual voicemail. Now, if you’re an iOS user or iPhone user, visual voicemail is built into the phone. And so you should be able to look at your voicemail messages and see a transcription of your voicemail. For Android, I don’t believe it comes stock on Android. But most of the phone carriers do offer some sort of basic visual voicemail built in that that Android will plug into. That’s my understanding. If you don’t have that, checkout Google Voice, it is super easy to get that set up.

Pete Wright:
There’s a little bit of a downside there, you have to set up a new phone number, but don’t worry about that, you don’t actually need to receive calls on that phone number. You just need to go through the process of setting it all up and it’s free. And it’s available. But actually, iOS users can use that too. I have a Google Voice number. It’s pretty standalone. And the transcription, Google’s transcription is great. They have been doing it the longest. They actually acquired a company. It used to be called Grand Central. It’s been around forever, doing exactly this kind of thing, transcribing voicemail. I find sometimes my iOS transcriptions are not great, where the Google Voice transcriptions are great. We’ll put a link to some other really great services. But those are the basic ones. They’re free. Generally, they’re closest to you. And so super useful there.

Pete Wright:
I think headphones are important, but I didn’t have any real success in fighting my personal ADHD focus issues with my headset. I used to have a Jabra kind of one year thing that hung out, like a dummy, right, hangs off your head. That was okay. But for me, the real like, I don’t know, the sun came out when I got my Bluetooth headset that actually covers both ears, and let’s me make those phone calls, right. Like when the iPhone first came out with the cable, I could make calls and cover both ears. So I’m hearing the call in my head completely, that made a huge difference. So this is personal use. Consider if you’re using one earpiece, using two ear pieces to fight the distraction piece of the ADHD part in your head, it makes a huge difference.

Pete Wright:
And video, you know. This is might be a little bit counterintuitive, but if you are not using video calls with people who are able to use video calls with you, consider doing that, because you are now engaging more senses. And in fact, you feel more empowered and more in control because you can see the other party that you’re talking to. And even if it’s the other party that’s like my dad who’s still constantly answering his video calls by putting his phone up to his ear. Like if you think that’s a joke that you only see in commercials and sitcoms, and then your dad does it and it’s-

Nikki Kinzer:
But it’s not. Yeah.

Pete Wright:
Come on, man. Come on. But it makes a big difference if attention is your challenge through phone calls.

Nikki Kinzer:
I agree.

Pete Wright:
And finally, the one thing that you speak, not a video, the one thing that the other party doesn’t get to see is what you’re doing with your hands while you’re on a phone call. So if you have the headset in, use fidgets like crazy, people like getting the things that you can play with, because this is the only time when no one can judge you for what’s in your hands because they can’t see it. So there you go. What do you think? How did we do? That’s what I got.

Nikki Kinzer:
I think it’s great. The only I would add one thing. And because we talked about this when we were talking about doing phone interviews, when we’re talking about interviewing. I had a client in one of my group sessions who said that they were doing a phone interview and actually use the advice of bullet pointing, like what he wanted to make sure he talked about. And he said that was a huge help for him. And so that’s the only thing I would add to this is that if you can and it makes sense, have something in front of you.

Pete Wright:
Oh, absolutely. Especially if you’re going through the fear hierarchy and you want to explore like the things that you’re scared of, and you’re preparing for a complex phone call, definitely write down some points you want to talk about, right. And we maybe don’t talk about it enough on this show, because we’re sort of having a call, right, as we record this thing.

Nikki Kinzer:
Oh, I can’t think about it too much because if I do, then I would probably go into a panic and then I don’t know if we would ever have this show again so I just don’t go there.

Pete Wright:
Well, we’ve managed to shift the context a little bit. But you know, we don’t come on into this blind. We’ve done research, like I spent the morning researching this topic to make sure I had my thoughts in order, and putting them in order in a Google doc that we are working on. We come into this prepared and this is, all of these things, you have the opportunity to take back control and give yourself a measure of confidence by doing what you need to do to prepare and and not feel like everything you do on the phone is an improvisational exercise. It doesn’t have to be. There you go.

Nikki Kinzer:
Great point. This is great. Thank you, Pete

Pete Wright:
Well, I hope it’s helpful for somebody out there. Relax, pick up the phone, give us a call. We don’t have a number published.

Nikki Kinzer:
Or not.

Pete Wright:
Don’t call us. Don’t worry about. You know, the last thing I did, I mentioned that we’re going to come back to is that guilt factor, and I do want to talk about that. I think that’s again, I think the tides are changing around how we feel about sending calls to voicemail and the acceptance of texts and emails as an alternative to making those calls. I think it’s okay to let yourself go about that, to let go those feelings of guilt. It’s now been years that I changed my incoming voicemail on my phone to, “I love you. Don’t leave a message. I will not check it. I will never check it.”, and at that point, I stopped letting people down because I set expectations for my relationship with voicemail. I have a terrible one, please text or email. And you know what? They did, and I don’t.

Nikki Kinzer:
It’s so true, and it works because if I call you and I get your voicemail, I don’t ever leave a message. I just hang up and then I’ll text you. And the only reason I would be calling you is if I actually really do need to talk to you like soon, you know?

Pete Wright:
Well, and that social contract is really important because I know, if you call me, it’s probably important, right. That I should, either if you miss me, I’ll call you right back, because I’m driving or something, or make sure I check my text immediately because you’re about to text me. It’s a social contract, like you figure it out.

Nikki Kinzer:
It is really. Totally. Yeah.

Pete Wright:
That’s really, really, really all we have to talk about this week. Thank you, everybody for downloading and listening to this show. On behalf of Nikki Kinzer, I’m Pete Wright. We’ll catch you next time right here on Taking Control: the ADHD podcast.