Recently I had to make a number of phone calls.
I work part time for an arts organisation and I needed to ring a few parents of the young people we work with. Nothing serious – I just had a few details I needed to confirm. I had pen and paper on hand to take notes. I had my colour-coded spreadsheet call list open on my laptop. I was ready to go. But then I needed to make a cup of tea. And then I needed to check if I had any new emails (I didn’t). And then I needed to make sure my work phone was properly charged (it was). Eventually, I ran out of procrastination excuses and I dialled the first number.
As it rang, I felt my heart race, my tongue thicken and my thoughts whirl…
If they don’t answer should I leave a voicemail?
If they do answer, am I one hundred percent clear on what I want to say?
What if I am interrupting them in the middle of something really important?
What if I stammer and they think I’m a flake and hang up?
Wouldn’t this just be easier if I could send an email?
A memory suddenly popped to mind.
It’s the year 2000. I’m in a new job in my home city in Canada, working as the Administrator for a local theatre company. I am asked to contact the theatre’s marketing person and am told very specifically that he only likes communication by email. At this point I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve sent an email. I think, this is crazy! Why would I email someone when it’s so much better to call them on the phone!? Sending an email feels weird and awkward. How can I properly connect with this guy if I can’t hear his voice? I call him. He is cordial but clearly annoyed. We have a short conversation, which ends with him saying, ‘please contact me by email in future.’
Back in the present, as the line continued to ring, I felt tense and a bit sick. I’d grown so used to composing emails and navigating video chats that a cold call felt utterly foreign.
I imagined all the ways this call would go badly.
I wondered how on earth I ever thought talking on the phone was easier than sending an email.
And then she answered. The mum of one of our young people. I said hello and introduced myself, while trying to slow my racing heart and peel my shoulders down from next to my ears. She sounded happy to hear from me, her voice filled with warmth. I started to relax. We spoke briefly about the weather, and how she’d been shielding because of Covid, and how hard lockdown is. I asked my questions about her child’s involvement in the arts programme, and she spoke with great pride about her daughter. As we wrapped up the call, she wished me and my loved ones well and said to keep safe and healthy.
We hung up. I felt a lift in my mood, as if a light in me had just gotten a bit brighter. I took a deep breath, smiled, and dialled the next number.