Hey, so this is one of my self-work-themed noozletters that people always used to wish they could comment on. Now you can! Enjoy.
When you really don’t want to make that call …
There’s nothing like a case of phone call dread.
Just to be clear, I’m not talking about general “I have no time” stuff or even about your average low-grade procrastination avoidance situation. Also assuming this isn’t about some peculiar phone phobia of yours that kicks in whenever you have to push buttons or something.
This is when you’re dealing with one specific sticky and uncomfortable interaction that you just don’t want anything to do with. For whatever reason, this one is loaded.
How loaded? If you’ve been there, you know the feeling … all the yuckiness of procrastination combined with sweaty palms, coughing and whole-body anxiety. Pretty unpleasant.
Granted, nine times out of ten you already know why you don’t want to make the call, but for the purpose of this exercise, let me toss out some real-life scenarios.
One would be the “If I talk to this person, he’ll drag me down” phenomenon, which is what my friend Scott deals with on a nearly-daily basis. He finds some of his clients so energy-draining that he pretty much dreads every interaction. Maybe the person you’re dreading is coming across as an energy vampire too.
There’s also the example of a couple of women I worked with recently who can’t stand making follow-up calls to potential clients. Not cold calls, mind you. Calls to people who have already specifically expressed interest in hiring them.
Still scary, because if you have a “what if they’ve changed their mind?” or “what if I’m bugging people?” question lurking in your brain, making the call is pretty much the least appealing thing you could want to do.
Then there’s the kind of call dread that’s all about unpleasant confrontation. I experienced this one recently myself when a studio where I taught a workshop “lost” my check, and didn’t want to write another one.
Of course in some way, it almost doesn’t matter who you’re calling or what it’s about — or whether it’s the thinking-about-it part or the not-doing part. When it’s one of those calls, it’s hang-wringingly awful in a jittery, guilt-laden, hyperventilating kind of way and you just don’t want to deal with it.
My fabulous technique: let me show you it
Generally speaking, when someone comes to me with a specific issue, we spend a little time untangling some of the deeper patterns at work instead of just rushing in to apply techniques.
However, for this particular situation, I happen to have a super genius technique that works just about every time. It’s such a valuable tool that I find myself constantly thinking, oh boy I wish everyone knew about this so I could stop explaining how to do it.
So please think of this technique as a “you really need to have this one in your toolbox” one.
∗Even if you’ve never, ever experienced phone call dread and never plan to, just learn it and save it for a rainy day.
The technique — a “mediation exercise” if you’re not a wacky energy person, and an “alignment exercise” if you are — is pretty easy to do. In fact, it’s so simple that I’m pretty much counting on you not being impressed by it.
All I can say is 1. it works like a charm and will knock your socks off every time, and 2. if you want to know why it works, we can cover that part some other time.
Just saying: even if it sounds kinda wacky or just plain stupid, do me a favor and play with me here. You know, that whole “don’t knock it til you’ve tried it” thing.
Here’s how it works.
STEP ONE: Stop guilting yourself for five minutes about how you think you really should be making that call, and sit down with a pad of paper and a pen.
STEP TWO: Make a list of things (qualities, characteristics, whatever) that you and the person you’re calling have in common. As many as you can think of is the rule, but if you want more specific instructions that that, how about this:
Try coming up with half a page if it’s, say, the phone company, and more if it’s someone you have hard-core entagled emotional patterns with. Let’s say at the very least you want to try for ten things.
–> If it’s someone you don’t know at all (for example, you’re calling your insurance company and you have no idea who will be picking up the phone), then generalize:
“I’d hate working at a call center and I bet this person isn’t crazy about it either. I’ve had jobs where I had to put up with crap to make money and that’s probably what this person is doing too. I hate it when people take their anger out on me, and no doubt that this person deals with a lot of that too.”
And so on.
STEP THREE: Read your list at loud as if it’s a conversation. Don’t worry, you’re not going to have to say any of this in real life. This is just for you.
You can do this conversation-thing as though you’re describing the person in question to a friend (“So this guy, Joel, is really stressed out at work, just Iike I am …“).
Or as if you’re talking to the person yourself (“I have the sense that both of us feel uncomfortable with confrontation or conflict, so that’s something else we have in common …“).
STEP THREE AND A HALF: Usually Step Three starts working its magic and at some point you just let out a big sigh and realize that you’re going to make the call now, but if this isn’t happening, repeat Step Three while gently tapping under your eye.
You just keep your index and middle fingers together and bring the pads of the fingers about an inch (2.5 cm) below your eye and tap there. Don’t ask why. Just do it.
Oh, let’s have an example
Okay. I’ll just give you the rundown of what I did when I had to call the studio to get my check written. And yes, there was much private fretting and fist-shaking until I remembered this technique. Here’s what my describing-my-list-to-my-friend part looked like:
So I’ve never met their accounting person and don’t know anything about her, but I can imagine that if she works in a yoga studio, she has to be at least a little bit of a yoga person, right?
Actually, she probably just wishes things would resolve themselves in a harmonious way, just like I do.
I don’t know if she enjoys her work, but she helps people, just like I do. Even though it’s annoying that she doesn’t want to okay another check, there could be a good reason for it that I don’t know about.
Now that I think about it, I realize my anger right now is really directed towards a bunch of different yoga studios I’ve worked with that have had a lot of flakiness in their dealings with me.
This woman’s an accountant for heaven’s sake. She probably hates flakiness. In fact, she’s probably sick of bubble-headed yoga teachers losing their checks all the time. She’s frustrated, just like me ….
The results (AND a surprise ending)
At this point, I was totally empathizing with the poor woman in accounting having to deal with all those cupcake-for-brains people, and not just once every few months like me, but all the damn time.
It seemed completely obvious that the thing I wanted to do was to call her right now. I figured, if I make it clear that I get her situation, and that I’m not actually one of those mush-headed flakeroony people, it’ll be fine and we’ll hash out some solution together.
So — and here’s where it starts getting wacky — now I’m feeling great, so I open my computer to dig out her phone number. And in my inbox is a message from my contact at the studio: they just decided to write me the check and it’s all taken care of.
Yeah, I completely dissolved the not-wanting-to-call thing, AND got the result I wanted without ever having even made the call.
Plus the relief and the joy (and it is seriously joyful) of realizing that even the people you’re busy hating on in your head are busy dealing with the same kinds of fears, anxieties and resentments as you are.
There’s no moral of the story here. Just a “take it from me” request.
Learn this technique. Use this technique. Because at the very, very least it will make you feel better about the thing that’s driving you batty, and give you some interesting insights into your own issues and patterns.