Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A Way of Overcoming Telephone Networking Phobia?

Some job seekers are definitely leery of making new contacts using the telephone. As anyone who has mastered the basic techniques knows though this makes for quite a handicap because some of the best information comes to us through personal conversations. Consequently I am always watching for ways of supporting people in their attempts to get past any barriers they might have in making warm or cold calls.

Here's an excerpt from a summary of a recent dissertation, Half of group free of phobia after a single treatment, published by the Swedish Research Council. It describes a method for desensitising people in anxiety-producing situations.

“In a one-session treatment the children, together with their therapist, gradually approach what they are afraid of in a controlled and planned manner. The therapist describes and carefully demonstrates before the child is allowed to try. Because the children remain in the anxiety-inducing situation, they can experience how their anxiety and fear abates and how the expected catastrophe in fact does not occur. With the patient remaining in the situation for an extended period, without running away, new learning occurs, producing a development toward a new behavior. This is all done on a voluntary basis, which is also a precondition for successful treatment.

“One-session treatment has also proven to be effective over time. Adults who have been treated with this method have been able to notice the effects of the treatment more than a year after the session. And nothing indicates that the effect would taper off sooner in children, which we assume will soon be confirmed by a follow-up study.”

This paradigm would appear to fit well with many of the practices in individual or group sessions used today. The facillitator would telephone a potential new contact, explain the purpose of the call and request (a) a few minutes of the person's time and (b) permission for one or more others to listen to the conversation. The the facillitator would conduct the conversation in a way intended to model what the job seekers would do, with them listening in to both sides of the conversation. Obviously some potential contacts would decline to participate but in these cases onlookers would see that this would not really be a catastrophic consequence of the attempt to connect. Once the facillitator had demonstrated a few times other members of the group could then be invited to make contacts via the telephone. The great thing about this approach is that these people would also be modelling behaviour and demonstrating to those who had not yet called that this kind of work might not be so hard to do.