That Phone Call You Don't Want to Make and Keep Pushing Off: What To Do

Joel Goldstein - Monday, April 11, 2016

Call NowSometimes you just have to make a phone call that you don’t want to make.

It happens to the most productive of CEOs, to the most communicative of salesmen.

Call reluctance is becoming increasingly common, especially now that we use email and other online communication.

Yet sometimes you have new opportunities which require a phone call, or a client prefers to talk on the phone. Most times phone calls will take much quicker than a long email back and forth.

But you don’t want to make that call. You find yourself being more industrious than ever, finishing all your other tasks and leaving the call for last. And of course, you successfully push off that unwanted call for two weeks, but it keeps niggling at the back of your brain.

What are some tricks you can use to stop pushing off that phone call, dial that number, and talk?


Why We Hate Making Those Phone Calls

Why do we avoid making some phone calls? Simply put, they make us uncomfortable, for various reasons. Maybe you’re asking for payment from a client, something which makes you uneasy. Or canvassing prospects is not a pleasant task for you. Maybe you feel like you’re not on the same page as the person on the other line, which can lead to stilted talk or miscommunication.

We don’t like going out of our comfort zone. That’s why we are masters at both mindfully and unconsciously delaying phone calls which make us uncomfortable at any level.

Now, there are some experts who advise actively working on going beyond your comfort zone with a series of exercises which will deliberately be uncomfortable for you.

While that may work if you have high motivation, for most busy business people, a far simpler solution is to take small steps that make the phone call more comfortable for you.

Here are some of the most helpful tips.


1- Run through the conversation in your mind before making that call.

A lot of your reluctance to dial that number may come from your imagination, which always starts creating exaggerated worst-case scenarios when faced with the unknown.

Fight that by anticipating and preparing the course of the conversation.

This shouldn’t take long. Just a minute should do.

Rehearse your opening for a few seconds in your mind. Spend a few more seconds setting up the structure of the conversation, what you will ask and what you want to accomplish.

Not only will this make you more prepared and less reluctant, it will help you have a better conversation, with more clarity on the goals this call is meant to achieve.


2 - Don’t overestimate your willpower

“Next time,” you think when faced with the consequences of delaying a phone call until it was too late, “I will make myself call right away, even if I don’t want to.”

The problem is, you probably said that before that last phone call that never happened or happened 3 weeks later than it was supposed to, too.

And it doesn’t work.

Here’s the thing: Procrastination regularly wins over willpower. It’s not just you, it’s a universal human condition. Willpower is limited. Excuses to push things off are infinite.

What you can use to fight your phone inertia is the if-then strategy.

If I need to discuss strategy with my client over the phone, then I will call him by the end of the day.

If I need to call my boss to ask for time off, then I will call him before 4 o’clock.

The "if" is the situation — what are the specific scenarios when you need to pick up the phone? The "then" is what you're going to do — here, pick up the phone, before a certain time.

This leaves no room for coming up with excellent tasks to keep yourself occupied with until it’s too late to call, no place for saying “I’ll do it tomorrow,” and no excuse for not feeling like calling.

Don’t underestimate this: studies show that when you readjust the words you tell yourself and use the if-then strategy, you are 4x more likely to make that phone call promptly.

Try using if-then with the next phone call you find yourself saying, “I’ll call him tomorrow” to.


3- Arm yourself with weapons.

Well, not literal weapons, rather tools that will help you feel prepared to make the phone call. Many find that placing a paper and pen in front of them so they can write down important points, (and doodle if their conversation partner starts rambling a bit), helps them feel more confident or relaxed.

You can alternatively open Notes on your computer, and if you’re going to discuss the person’s business, go to his website so you can ask relevant questions and get a better picture of where he’s coming from.


4- And finally - catch yourself when you find yourself pushing off a phone call.

You know this from past experience; the more you push off a phone call, the greater your reluctance becomes.


When we avoid making phone calls, we reinforce in our brain that the phone call is uncomfortable and something to be avoided.

Every time we push off making that phone call, every time we rationalize that we have to do this and that task before making the phone call, our brain adds even more imagined discomfort to the call.

When making that phone call finally becomes inevitable, it looms before you, way more daunting and painful than it was the first time you delayed calling.

This phenomenon is called negative reinforcement.

And behavioral scientist say that the way to eliminate it is to break that cycle.

Which means, the minute you realize you’re avoiding a phone call, take a moment to use the strategies to prepare yourself, and just do it.

Right away.

Before it turns into a big obstacle that causes you needless anxiety.

So stop reading, and call the client you had on your to do list for the past few weeks. Call your boss. Call that prospect.


You’ll do just fine.




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