Son paralyzed by the telephone.

Remember when all we wanted to do was talk on the phone?  Oh, what a difference a generation makes.  My young adult son is completely terrified about talking on the phone. It's not a matter of stumbling or feeling awkward but of being struck nearly mute.  He wants to find an apartment but cannot bring himself to pick up the phone and call.  Has anyone else ever confronted this?  What did you do? Can anyone in this smart and connected community recommend specific therapy, a book, a program?  He tells me that role playing doesn't work because he's always conscious that mom is the one playing the stranger.  Anything?

Many thanks, 

Nothing but crickets

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My daughter used to refuse to talk on the phone. She started with brief voicemail messages. Ahead of time I would advise her on what to say and during the message I coached her if she got stuck. She worked her way up to live conversations. Start small and go from there. The pressure of making a good impression without the visual cues and particularly while trying to secure an apartment is daunting. Can he do the initial contact through email? That will give him the opportunity to craft his questions and/or replies without being "on the spot." As a landlord, I find email communication with prospective tenants very helpful and efficient for determining whether the rental is a good fit for them.

 Like you son, I have struggled with "phone anxiety" since I was young.  I am not exactly sure where it came from but I had some early traumatic issues surrounding phone calls (like discovering that my parents were divorcing by overhearing my dad apartment hunting. I also found out my grandfather died as I accidentally overheard my grandmother telling my mom, on the other phone line).  Nevertheless, 40+ years and I still harbour this anxiety, but have learned to cope fairly well by writing down/taking notes of what I wanted to say...  questions I needed to ask, any potential curveballs in the conversation. Basically organise it all out on paper first, like a reasearch paper.  When I hear my phone ring, I immediate grab  a pen/paper just in case I need to focus my thoughts -jot down ideas.  Although I haven't done this personally, I'm positive there are also plenty of therapists that work on similar issues of phobias/intense fears. They take it all in "baby steps "  so I'm sure this would really help him a lot also.   Good luck!  

I could so relate to your description of your son. Before the wonders of technology, we had a phone tree set up for our soccer team. The coach would call the first person on the list to inform them of weather cancellations. That person would then call the next person on the list, and so on and so on, until everyone was informed - and the coach only had to make one call. My son's coach now just sends out a team email and posts on our team's Facebook page, so my son probably has no idea what a phone tree even is! My point in sharing this was that I would be so paralyzed to call my teammate to inform them. I hated the phone. I still don't love the phone but have managed to incorporate it into my work life. Personally, I still prefer email or texting to calling. I've read that phone phobia can be a symptom of anxiety. Maybe have him assessed with a therapist? Regardless of the diagnosis, it sounds like he could benefit from CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) to help him develop phone skills. Good luck!

Can he talk to friends on the phone? Take baby steps from there. Call relatives. Call a catalog to place an order. Call a restaurant to make a reservation. Or maybe get a job doing customer service. Somehow it is easier if it is a required part of work.  Or, use email to rent an apartment. You don't really have to call, do you? 

I was afraid to use the phone as a tween/teen. For me, I eventually got over it because it was the 80s and there really weren't other options, so I eventually reached the point where I couldn't avoid it, and repeated exposure eventually got rid of the panic. It seems like gradual controlled and repeated exposure is probably the key (as it is to most things phobia). Can he enlist his friends to engage in communicating by voice (gasp!)? Chit-chat calls with you (not role playing)?

For the hard calls with strangers, it might help him to write down a script to keep him focused on the goal of the call and give him something to refer to when he gets tongue-tie. "Hello, my name is XXXX. I'm calling about the apartment listed on YYY." How many bedrooms, what's the rent, can I set up an appointment to view it, what's the address? Thank you, I will see you at the apartment at 3 pm on Saturday. He should write down the answers to his questions, since it's hard to remember anything when you are having a panic attack. 

I'm 64 years old, and I still have to steel myself sometimes to pick up the phone and make a call that needs to be made.  I don't have any advice for your son except to tell him to gird his loins and do battle with the shyness.  He's not alone. 

My children do not have the phone anxiety your son has, but they all much prefer to text! Among teens, texting is now the preferred method of communicating, even if they're sitting next to each other!  Can your son work around some of his anxieties by texting instead of calling?