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Fearing The Phone: Curing Your Call Aversion

Dr. Albert Ellis, the founder of rational emotive therapy, has an interesting way of dealing with phobics such as call aversion sufferers. He believes that human beings engage in a series of irrational thoughts to support a fear, whether it is a fear of heights or a fear of asking a prospect to buy. Those irrational mental processes reinforce our own negative self-image. Ellis believes that if we can interrupt and replace our internal dialogue of thought patterns, we can allow ourselves to release the extra mental baggage we carry.

For example, a salesman might pick up a telephone and internally worry, “This referred lead really isn’t a very good prospect. I’ve dealt with these types before. They’re rude and curt. I really don’t think now is a good time to call. Executives like this always get lots of calls from salespeople in the morning. I think I’ll wait until the afternoon when things slow down for him.”

Four Easy Steps

Here are four steps for you to use the next time you have a bout of call aversion.

1  Observe

First, observe yourself as you experience call aversion. Pay careful attention to what you are going through. Chances are, you have let your self-sabotaging irrational thoughts drag your personal esteem through the mud. Detach yourself, for once, from your emotions and simply be an observer instead of a participant.

You are probably thinking, “Hey, Kerry, detach myself from my emotions? How am I supposed to do that?” One simple method for bringing about a phobia cure is a concept developed through neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). Using this therapy, a phobia sufferer watches himself in a “mental movie,” imagining himself on the screen. He sees himself experiencing the fear and all that is entailed with it. He is able to feel the heart palpitations, the perspiration and the shakes caused by anxiety. When he sees this happening, it becomes easier for him to deal with the uncomfortable emotions that brought on the fear in the first place. If you can imagine yourself as the central character on the movie screen, experiencing your heart pounding, the perspiration and the dread you feel on the telephone, you will be able to help yourself in recognizing the symptoms you are going through during call-aversive episodes. After you have run your “mental movie,” the next step is to engage in the pattern-interrupt and reward phases. From now on, when you start feeling those emotions, detach yourself by watching your mental movie.

A salesperson reported testing this method. As he was about to follow up on a referral lead, he started to feel call-aversive panic. His palms became moist, his heart palpitated and he became aware of his irrational mental dialogue: “I really don’t want to make this call. I feel myself becoming afraid of the telephone. If the prospect thinks I am intruding on his time, what will I say? He won’t talk with me because he’ll know I’m new at this. He’ll probably recognize how scared I am.” The salesperson saw how his fears were influencing his logical thought.

2  Pattern-Interrupt

The second step is to interrupt your aversion emotions. By recognizing when the irrational thought patterns of call aversion sets in, you can interrupt them from causing problems. Irrational thoughts seem to feed on themselves in a compounding way, like a snowball rolling down a hill.

The next time you become aware that those patterns have surfaced, immediately do something physical. Stand up and walk around your office. Say out loud what you are thinking internally. One effective way to interrupt the pattern is to cause yourself some quick physical discomfort. Wear a rubber band around your wrist. When you become self-sabotaging, snap the rubber band. The sting will break the cycle.

3  Substitute

Third, immediately substitute a positive experience to replace the negative one. Clinical research psychologists William Redd and William Sleator discovered that self-inflicted negative messages have an enormous impact on future success. If you have been selling for even a few weeks, you have probably made at least one successful

telephone call. You also can recall how easy it seemed at the time, and how good you felt during and after the conversation. Get a 3-inch by 5-inch card, write down that prospect’s name, and record every detail of how you felt during and after that call.

4  Reward

Finally, after every call, give yourself an immediate “reward.” Whether or not you were able to speak to your prospect, reward yourself. A reward can be anything from a sip of coffee to calling your spouse or even popping a breath mint into your mouth. A reward will reinforce the telephone call and increase the likelihood that you will make another call.

One financial advisor with “fear of intrusion” reported his success using this four-step technique. He felt almost apologetic for making prospecting telephone calls. Prospects often treated him as if they had absolutely no time for him. His heart would palpitate and beads of sweat would form on his forehead as he started to dial the phone number. When he finally observed his own phobic reaction, he was able to interrupt himself with a rubber band snap and recall a past successful call. Then he started to make the dreaded calls, following each one with a sip of coffee as a reward. Not only did his level of anxiety decrease, he finally was able to increase his revenues from referrals, and also call past prospects for appointments.

If you are good on the phone, you’ll be light years ahead of your competition. When you learn to recognize what call aversion is and do something about it, business simply will flow to you. 

Kerry Johnson, MBA, Ph.D., is a best-selling author and frequent speaker at financial planning and insurance conferences around the world. He developed Peak Performance Coaching, a one-on-one coaching program. To see if you are a candidate for this fast-track system, click on and take a free evaluation. [email protected].

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