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Don't Call Us, We’ll Call … Well, No, Actually We Won’t...

What is it about the telephone that introverts dislike?

I love seeing friends face-to-face. (Not in gangs, but one or two at a time.) I love Facebook. I love e-mail. I love letters, although it has admittedly been a while since I've written one.

But I hate the phone. Hate it. Hate. It.

I can let the phone ring without picking up. I own a cell phone but don't give out the number. The only people I willingly talk with on the phone are far-flung friends, and only because I know it's necessary to keep those friendships healthy. Even so, as these friends can tell you, I can be difficult to reach, and return their phone calls in my own sweet time, when I feel up to the exertion the phone requires for me.

Smart phones? When they invent a phone smart enough to talk for me, let me know.

And a lot of you have said you feel the same. Introverts don't do phone if we can help it.

I've been thinking about this since I started writing this blog seven months ago, racking my brain for the definitive explanation for this shared aversion. I still don't have it. I can think of a few reasons, and hope you'll share yours. Let's figure this out.

1. The phone is intrusive. It rings and we are expected to tear our minds away from whatever they were focusing on and refocus on whoever is on the other end of the line and whatever he or she has to say. This makes my brain hurt. My mind doesn't change direction easily.

2. Most phone calls are chit-chatty rather than deep. And we all agree: introverts don't like chit-chat. I have one friend who starts every call by asking, "Whatcha doin'?" I have no idea how to answer, except with "Nuthin'" or "Workin'" or "Cleaning the schumtz out of my computer keyboard." And I can't imagine that any of these answers could interest her, so the call immediately feels awkward.

I do have friends with whom phone conversations get deep and I enjoy those, but they require a block of time. When that kind of call ambushes me, it derails my whole day. I try to schedule them--and even so, a certain amount of bullet biting is necessary for me to keep the appointment.

3. Introverts tend to be slow thinkers and responders and long pauses don't go over well on the phone. If I am on the phone with a talkative person, I struggle to get my say. I end up doing a lot of listening and uh-huhing. After a while, I get bored.

4. It can be difficult to focus a busy, busy introvert mind on the abstraction that is telephone conversation. Listening to one thing and seeing something else is a lot of sensory input piled on top of everything that's already going on in our heads. This is exhausting and my mind often drifts back into itself; I have to force it back to the conversation.

Oddly, I find that playing simple computer games, such as Tetris or Freecell, while I talk can help; they engage the restless part of my mind so the remainder can focus. I also use a headset because holding a phone to my ear makes me feel even more trapped. That way I can do simple chores, such as sweeping or loading the dishwasher, while I talk. Again, this keeps my wandering mind engaged enough to stay on telephone task.

So, there are some of the things that have occurred to me but none feels like the reason so many introverts hate the phone. Do any of them ring a bell for you? What's your reason? (And do any of you introverts out there like the telephone? Why?)


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Photo by plenty.r via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Copyright 2010 Sophia Dembling

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