As an extrovert, I have been figuring out how I can still foster relationships and satisfy my urges to hang out with people while practicing social isolation.
While many of us are stuck in our homes due to coronavirus, I have discovered that hearing someone’s voice is one of our most powerful tools to foster relationships, and I think we should call people more often, even when we are not in the midst of a world pandemic.
Why We Avoid Phone Calls
I know many people my age (myself included!) who are nervous about making phone calls, and I think there are a few causes of this anxiety.
Sometimes we avoid making phone calls because we lack control. With texting, we can choose when we will respond, we can choose to edit our message before sending, and we have a record of what was said. With a phone call, everything is spontaneous, and we are vulnerable because we lack the opportunity to edit our words before we speak. But that’s just it–a part of being in relationships is being willing to be vulnerable and spontaneous with each other! Neither of these are bad things, and it’s important to be comfortable with our friends and family members with their quirks and unique personality traits.
Sometimes it can feel that phone calls are too invasive into someone else’s life. What if I interrupt them while they’re doing something important? But we don’t have to worry about this because that’s exactly what voicemail and “do not disturb” mode are designed to address. Phone calls are not a momentous event that should be limited to special occasions or emergencies, they can be a part of our regular lives.
The Power of Our Voices
A few weeks ago, I talked with three different friends over the phone. I was amazed by how different these three friends’ voices are: I guess I have never paid attention to it before. One friend is analytical and hardworking, which comes out in his voice as we thoughtfully talked through our ideas. The other one is fun and social, as evidenced by him enthusiastically calling me to break up my boring Friday night. The other is sensitive and kind, as I heard in his gentle voice.
Getting to hear their laughs and their tone of voice was so rich. The conversations were spontaneous and fun, leading from one place to the next. These phone calls reminded me that there is a real, vibrant person with a unique personality on the other end of every phone.
I found this interesting study that shows we immediately make assumptions about people’s personality traits based on their voice. After having 320 participants listen to different vocal recordings of sixty-four people saying the word “hello”, the researchers concluded that, “personality judgments of brief utterances from unfamiliar speakers are consistent across listeners.” In other words, the participants were rating each “Hello” they heard out of a list of ten personality traits, and the participants consistently attributed the same personality trait to the same voice. We draw consistent conclusions about a person’s personality from just one word.
No matter how many emojis we use in a text message, we simply cannot convey emotions as effectively as we can with a single spoken word.
Our phones are not just for blocking endless political calls or telemarketers: our phones are for building and strengthening relationships and staying in touch with people we care about.
In our culture, we rarely focus our attention on just one thing, but when we call someone, we are showing them that we are making the conscious effort to give them our attention. As we are currently distant from each other physically, let’s make the effort to keep our relationships strong and make sure we are still hearing each other’s voices, even when we can’t see each other in person!