Sometimes letters just stack up together in a sequence sort of perfectly. Thank you, Letter Writers!
I am a frequent lurker, sometimes commenter, and I have a question that probably has a pretty easy answer, but as I am super awkward myself sometimes, especially in dating, I am struggling to figure it out on my own. Maybe you and/or readers can help.
Do you have any advice/scripts for what to do/say when someone you’re interested in dating wants to talk on the phone and you have an aversion to phone conversations? Like, I’m fine online, and through text, and I have no problem with face-to-face conversations. But something about sitting on the phone with someone (especially someone I’ve never actually met face to face, but even someone I’ve already met) gives me a serious case of anxiety. I only have long phone conversations with good friends who I’ve known for years, and that’s only once in a great while. I wasn’t like this as a teenager – I liked having long phone calls with boys! It’s just something that, as an adult in the dating world, I’m not comfortable with. Unfortunately, many of the men I try to date get awfully pushy about it, even when I say something like, “I’m not really a phone person.”
Do you have any advice for how to be more direct about this without offending anyone, or maybe how to explain it so that they understand that it’s not them, it’s really me? Also, am I weird for having this phobia at all?
Thanks so much!
Always Hoping For Voicemail
Dear Always Hoping:
Entire businesses exist to let you avoid talking on the phone so, it’s not just you!
“I’m not really a phone person” is pretty darn clear. You could add “I prefer not to” or “Let’s save it for the date” or “No, I’d rather not” but you’re not being exactly mysterious in your demurrals. “I really like you and I’m excited to meet up next week, but I’m super not a phone person and I’d much rather just wait until we’re hanging out” is not mean or rude or weird. Or unclear.
In the most generous interpretation, I can see why someone you’ve only chatted with online wants to talk, even briefly, on the phone before meeting in person. It can be a safety thing, like, are you a real person are you really at this number is the person who is coming to the cafe tomorrow really going to be the same person I’ve been talking to? So, “I’m not really a phone person, but sure, I’ve got 2 minutes” can work if it’s someone you’re just meeting for the first time. If at the end of two minutes you still want to talk to the person more, that’s a good sign.
Of course, it can also be a safety/dominance thing in the other direction, like, when you give a potential date person your phone number for “I am running late to the restaurant, see you in 15” texting purposes and they use it for “Hi, you are my best new texting buddy and I will send you my every waking thought and also call you whenever I’m thinking ’boutcha, which is all the time, Lover!” purposes. There is a safety argument and a boundaries!!! argument for keeping everything inside the world of the dating site or app messenger at first vs. giving a stranger a way to constantly reach you on a device you probably carry with you everywhere at all times. Sadly some people hear “I don’t really like that” and take it as a challenge (see previous letter).
Whether or not your phone anxiety is normal, I think what you have here is can work as a built-in Are We Compatible? detector. When you say “I’m not really a phone person but I’ve got 2 minutes” or “Hey, it’s not personal, but I don’t like to talk on the phone with people I don’t know well, let’s just save it for our date?” and the other person says “Sure, no worries!” or “Listen I know the phone thing is weird but it’s a safety thing for me, can we talk for literally 30 seconds so I know you won’t Catfish me and vice versa?” you can probably work with that.
When, on the other hand, a person says, “Awww, whyyyyyyyyyyy, don’t you liiiiiiiiike me” or otherwise tries to push past your polite “no thank you”, take it as permission to say “I don’t like the phone and I don’t like grownups who think ‘wheedling’ is a good strategy, so this isn’t going to work out, good luck out there, though!” and think no more about them. Like, when they get all pushy with you, what do these men think is going to happen? That you’ll be like “Oh, baby, sorry, you’re right, I love the phone now, thanks for curing my anxiety with your big strong assertive phone-talking powers!” Ugh. No.
Phone anxiety can be part of a social anxiety disorder, and if your anxiety is fucking with your life – you wish you liked talking on the phone, you can’t make phone calls that you need to make, for instance – it’s worth checking into with a mental health pro. But for our purposes, it’s not about whether or not something is normal or usual, it’s about you giving the person you might end up dating information about a preference you have. A good person is going to say “You don’t like the phone, cool, noted” and drop the subject and be glad that they have the information. Someone who treats “no” as the opening to a negotiation is going to bug the shit out of you in all kinds of other ways. They are giving you a gift (an annoying gift, but still, a gift) by manifesting this behavior right at the start, before you’ve invested a lot of time.
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