May 18, 2023 08:22
"Call me." Those seemingly innocuous words can bring some people to the verge of a nervous breakdown as everyday communication is increasingly reduced to texting.
The heart races and pupils dilate whenever the phone rings, and some only manage to call others when they are given a script.
Telephobia is getting more common around the world. Singer IU recently admitted to it in a TV interview. She may speak with her best friend on the phone for no more than three minutes and admitted to feeling pangs of anxiety even when her own mother calls.
Some Koreans are seeking the help of therapists to overcome their fear of talking on the phone since the debilitating phobia can bring problems at work and in their everyday lives.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first-ever mobile phone call, made by a Motorola researcher in New York. Since then, radical advances have been made in mobile communication technology, but for some reason they have exacerbated anxiety for many people.
There are even dedicated centers to help people deal with it. At one such center in Seoul earlier this month, people in their 20s and 30s who work as consultants, marketing staff and aspiring teachers practiced speaking on the phone with the help of an instructor. Each class lasts about 90 minutes, and eight sessions cost around W600,000 to W700,000 (US$1=W1,337).
Trainees include heads of mid-sized companies, politicians, professional consultants and jobseekers. They write down a script that fits their profession, and the instructor engages them in simulated phone calls and offers tips.
Kang Min-jung, the head of the center, said, "Rather than teaching simple telephone skills, we spend time learning how to build human relationships so that trainees can understand the psychology of the person on the other side of the line."
The rise of texting may be the main culprit as more and more people no longer feel the need to speak to others ever again. Internet chats are filled with comments from people who complain about difficulties talking on the phone.
Complaints range from trouble remembering what was said in a phone call to no longer knowing how to convey emotion or intent with the voice alone.
That phobia is amplified when the phone rings. Not only do such calls come unexpectedly, there is no telling what the person on the other side might say. People who fear talking on the phone simply refuse to answer calls from strangers.
Oh Dae-jong at Kangbuk Samsung Hospital said, "It's helpful to talk frequently to family and friends who won't embarrass you if you make a mistake. You can start off by speaking to others using a memo you wrote down and then try to do without the memo once you feel more comfortable talking on the phone."
"One of the difficult things about speaking on the phone is the need to answer right away, but you can simply say, 'I'm going to have to think about that' if it's hard to answer instantly," said Kang.
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