There are lots of ways in which social anxiety can come between us and our own well-being. It can make it hard to tell doctors what we need, to rent an apartment, to make new friends. We all achieve varying levels of success in navigating these challenges.
Lately, I’ve seen social anxiety come up in one aspect more than any other: calling government offices to get our voices heard. Phone calls are unnerving; you talk to a stranger, you can’t read their face or body language, and if you’re a millennial, you’ve probably heard from at least one debt collector that made you associate phone calls with stress.
But we have to call our representatives in government. It’s important.
Here are the tips I’ve collected from Twitter users and online articles on how to get those calls made despite the anxiety.
- Set a time. Set an alarm, if you have to, and don’t snooze it. Even if your decision is “In five minutes, I’m going to make this call,” you’ll feel more prepared.
- Get the number from a source you trust. If you’re calling a senator, representative, governor, or even your mayor, there should be a phone number on their website. There are also sites that can help you identify all of the government officials beholden to you.
- Take a deep breath. Remember, the person on the other end of the line will just be a human office staffer whose job is to be polite and take down your message. They do not breathe fire, nor do they have any power over you. (You might even get voicemail and not a human at all.) You can always hang up if you feel like it. You have the control.
- Write a script and practice it a few times before you call. “Hi, my name is (name), I’m from (city/town), and I want to (encourage or object to) (thing) because (reason). Thank you.” Dial. Read it. Then hang up and go back to your life.
- Give yourself a cookie. Or a bath, or a drink. Whatever you need. You did the thing. Go you.
There are even some organizations that are trying to help us make calls. Planned Parenthood will even call you and connect you to your senator (with a script at the bottom of the page, if you want it). Sites like whoaremyrepresentatives.org let you punch in your zipcode and see everyone who represents you in government, as well as their contact info in one click.
Once you know how to contact your reps, and that you can survive making the phone call (however unpleasant it is), save the numbers in your phone and start thinking of them like your friends. It’s their job to look out for you and your interests. Don’t let them forget it.