Everyone is attached to their phone 24/7 these days, but fewer and fewer of us are making calls. Research shows that from an average of 15 calls a day in 2012 we were down to six in 2015. I imagine the number has only fallen more since. And when the phone does ring, many of us cringe. A full 78 percent of Millennials told British pollsters they feel anxious when their phones ring, while 40 percent of Boomers admitted to phone call anxiety.
And while many of us have been moaning about Zoom fatigue for months now, few have considered simply switching to the good, old-fashioned phone (despite some experts suggesting they'd feel a lot less burnt out if they did).
This reluctance to pick up the phone and call people is somewhat understandable. Compared with texts, real time conversations demand quicker thinking and risk more awkwardness. Phone calls also force us to rely solely on voice cues to get our meaning across, which can be tricky.
But just because you can explain your phone phobia doesn't mean having one is a good idea. In fact, several new studies suggest you'd be happier if calling someone stopped being a monumental undertaking and instead became a quick, frequent part of your normal life.
Calling will make you happier than you think it will.
Calls, for instance, are generally way less awkward than we expect them to be, according to one new study. They also leave us feeling more emotionally connected to the other party than texting. Other research shows that while we think video helps prevent misunderstanding, we're actually better at detecting emotional nuance when we connect by voice alone (apparently video call heads don't offer many useful body language cues).
All of this suggests that calls are all around nicer than we expect them to be, and also that we should probably opt for the phone more. But there's one more consideration often holding many of us back -- the difficulty of extracting yourself from the call once it's begun. Finding a graceful exit from a "just called to say hi" conversation can be tricky, and most us have experienced the agony of an acquaintance who won't stop chattering away.
If this is your fear, you're far from crazy. As the Guardian recently reported, researchers "analyzed nearly a thousand conversations between family and friends and between strangers, and found that regardless of whether it is a brief chat or a lengthy discussion, and whether the content constitutes banter or debate, when two humans talk, one almost always wants to stop talking before the other one does."
Make more, shorter calls.
It's hardly earth-shattering news that politeness often keeps us from interrupting chatterbox callers (and, more rarely, that anxious types end conversations early out of baseless fear the other party is bored). But reminding ourselves just how common mismatched expectations about phone calls are suggests a simple, practical step we can take to improve things.
In short, be honest. We'd all be happier if we were just more upfront about how much time we wanted to spend on a call.
"Managing expectations is one of the key components to happiness," commented London School of Economics behavioral scientist Paul Dolan in the Guardian article. "Often things fall apart when we haven't properly communicated our expectations to somebody. I'm hesitant to tell you that I've got 20 minutes to talk to you because I don't want to appear rude, but actually it's just going to make that conversation so much better for both of us because we know the rules."
Taken together all this science suggests that while your phone fears aren't totally unfounded, they also shouldn't keep you from making more calls. Adding more phone chats to your life will make you feel happier and more connected to others, especially if you're just bold enough to hang up when you want to.