Why I Hate Talking on the Phone

Sweaty palms and pits, a volcano preparing to erupt in the stomach, heart rapidly beating as if life’s about to end—these are the moments felt before a phone call.

When someone says they’re going to call me, I think to myself, “Okay, how can I make this not happen? What could I be doing instead? I have laundry I need to do, I could clean my room, I could clean the bathroom—someone might need help moving something, or maybe I’ll need to babysit… what if I get sick? Maybe I’ll get sick…” I think of all the possibilities that could result in me not answering. Maybe it’s too early, maybe it’s too late, maybe my phone was on vibrate/I couldn’t find it…

I hate phone calls. They’re the most dreaded part of my life. It’s a lot more than anxiety—I have issues with delayed processing, heightened senses, and the inability to think on-demand. I do so well with text-based communication, because I can read it over and over again, but if and when you give me verbal communication to deal with, then I’m going to get lost.

If I’m not stuttering, my mind is thinking more slowly than I can actually process, so I start to answer with anything, and then I stumble over my words later, confusing the people on the other line. Oftentimes, when I’m having in-person verbal conversations, others try to think for me, or guess what I’m trying to say, rather than wait for me to finish—guessing what I’m trying to say doesn’t actually help and can result in me saying yes to something that is not likely the case.

It’s not necessarily a means of “slow down”, but a means of wait-for-me-to-talk—however, even then, it could even have to do with the entire situation. I’m still reacting, but I’m not actually processing and understanding what is happening in a situation. It’s delayed.

When the aforementioned is paired with the inability to comprehend prosody, it gets more complicated: People are taught to understand nonverbal communication, in addition to prosody, and use these as a means of communication—they’re taught to understand everything at once and make note of everything the person is doing, the tone the person is speaking with, and many other things I deem rather pointless.

It’s pointless to me, because no matter how many times someone tries to make me understand all these other cues, I still don’t actually understand it. I don’t notice the difference in others’ tones, and I rarely know when someone is telling a joke and when someone is being serious. I often relate myself to Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory, because he tends to have difficulties with sarcasm and seriousness, much like myself. It’s a headache trying to know the difference between tones and emotions, and people who are so accustomed to communicating using those other cues are appalled when someone disagrees.

You can disagree with me, that’s fine; however, there’s more to communication than eye contact, someone’s tone of voice, and touching someone… stop relying on it so much. Words are words, and they can be a powerful tool if you let them be—no need to touch my shoulder, pierce my eyes or verbalize at me.

Text-based, nonverbal communication allows me to process everything in the comfort of my own space, as well as analyze how I’m feeling, if I’m feeling anything at all. Sometimes, things are just what they are—I’m not always going to feel something about things.

Asking me how I feel about something results in me feeling annoyed from you asking such an idiotic question.

I also never known when to speak, and more often than not, I have nothing to say right then, or ever, but there’s not any ability to wait.

In other news, I survived an approximately 8-minute phone call today.

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Comments on this post

Raul’s gravatar

How familiar!! I am also an Aspie (and very proud of it!!) and have the same difficulties to talk in person and on the phone. Like you, writing is also my best way of communication for the reasons you mention in the post.

Being an Aspie is a reason of pride for me, and hope it is also for you. We might have many difficulties with communication when is person to person or on the phone, but in exchange we have capabilities NT’s or normals (or “humans”, as I like to call them) don’t have. I hope you are enjoying your special capabilities!

I used to have all kind of problems when trying to interpret other people’s talking, and usually they laughed at me. Now I just look at them in the face and ask them “what does it mean?” (for whatever they just said and I didn’t understand)

Seems so stupid to use so many elements of communication, to the point of leave the straight meaning of the words aside. If you take a look at my post “Humans and Aliens” you’ll find we have the same problems of communication with others.



Agent Q’s gravatar

Ah man, phone calls can be dreadful because of what is required during that time with very little preparation. Well done surviving the 8 minutes though.

Sometimes I just wonder to what extent should we feel the need to process our thoughts and synchronize them with our spoken words. For me, it is that desire for a control of the situation that paralyzes our ability to go with the flow. In times like these, I wonder if it is necessary to renounce control and “wing it?” Sure, such strategy is less practical in situations where stakes are high. But who said winging things can’t be a skill? Gotta embrace the unpredictable, as some say.

Robin’s gravatar

I prefer text-based, non-verbal communication for the same reason.

Sara’s gravatar

I have a similar issue with phone calls. I don’t usually handle them very well. However, since I’m old enough to remember a time when we didn’t have computers, I learned to survive!

I think in some ways, you and your generation are lucky in that there are so many choices regarding communication. People text fast enough now for it to almost be a phone call. I’ve watched my daughters and the fingers fly.

Anyway, like others said…you got through 8 minutes and so, that’s doing well.

Adrianne’s gravatar

I grew up talking on the phone with my friends during my younger days because we didn’t have any internet back then. Even then, I was always a shy and close to non-social person and still am, which is why I also feel uncomfortable talking on the phone.

With non-verbal/text communications, like everyone else says here, it’s easier for me to put all my thoughts down in writing. ^^;

Christine’s gravatar

My husband is the same way when it comes to phone calls. He is not an Aspie, but he is LD/Dyslexic and can’t process and answer quickly or in a witty fashion without thinking about it for a long time. He has been making progress (I have him call the doctor, or for Chinese food, etc…), but it’s hard for him. I applaud you for your phone call! How did you feel afterward? Free? Relaxed?

Liz’s gravatar

I, well, felt like running away. It was mostly due to the people I talked to not being very friendly? They talked fast. 🙁 I was extremely shaky after, and I think I just ate and showered, which helped calm me down.

Unfortunately, because I wasn’t able to get the right help, I didn’t get to get into the marketplace to apply for insurance this year? So great. But the second half of last year seemed to go alright, and I’ve not had it before, so.

Ooh, I can order pizza/Chinese/etc.! I used to not be able to. The doctor is difficult… My therapist, erm, would let me email her to cancel/schedule appointments.<3