So many young adults will avoid phone calls at all costs – preferring to text or send a voice note.
If you’ve been nagging your teen to brush up on their telephone skills, they’ve likely responded that phone calls are ‘archaic’ and ‘no longer necessary’. Why waste time on a phone call when an email or text will do just fine?
Phone calls are not obsolete – yet
OK, some say there may come a time when having a good telephone manner is not an essential skill, but that time is not now (and we wonder if that time will ever come!). Actually, as phone calls have evolved into video calls, you could argue that communication skills over digital media (be it a phone call or a Skype call) are becoming even more critical.
As they grow into adulthood and encounter challenges like job interviews or setting up appointments over the phone, your teen will need to work through their telephone anxiety so that they can be fully functional adults.
How to teach telephone skills?
Remember that your teen has grown up in an era where smart phones are the norm. It is so easy for them to communicate via text, DM and voice note that it is natural for them to feel anxious when faced with an actual phone call.
The trick to teaching your teen telephone skills is not to throw them in the deep end without warning… you have to ease them into it, and provide them with coping mechanisms that help them to learn.
Start off with friends and family
Ask your teen to call a family member and have a conversation. Set a time limit (start small, like 5 minutes, and build up to longer conversations). This will help them feel comfortable with maintaining a conversation over the phone with a person who is familiar.
Order take out or make an appointment
When your teen is less anxious to phone a family member, ask them to make a phone call with a specific task in mind. They could order take out for the family, or book their own hair appointment (instead of just letting you do it for them!) Phoning a ‘stranger’ may feel very awkward for them, and they will possibly rebel or procrastinate. Gently encourage them to make the call, and praise them for doing a good job once the call is over.
Write them a script
One of the reasons that teens are uncomfortable with phone calls, is that it’s real time communication. They don’t have time to think about what they are saying, and there is no voice note to simply delete if they say the wrong thing. Talking on the phone is ‘live’ right now! Help them out by writing out a script of things they need to say and ask. This will make them feel more prepared and less anxious.
Don’t get mad, be patient
Try to see where your teen is coming from – what seems like a simple task for you is an enormous challenge for them! Help them to practice, be patient, and remind them why telephone skills are important and can help them in the future.