Like many other people with the Asperger neurotype, I don't like speaking on the phone, even to people I care about. I need some advice about how to tell people this.
The benefit of labels and brief 'scientific' explanations:
I have found that if I can understand why something is the way it is (e.g. "I have a problem in the top right-hand side of my brain") or if I can put a label to something (such as "I struggle to recognise faces -- I have mild prosopagnosia" -- I say this to my students when I ask them to wear name tags), then it's so much easier for everyone.
Telling without explaining is not enough:
I want to ask people to please rather send me text messages whenever possible, but when I do, I still feel bad because I can't explain why -- especially f the other person is also an aspie, and they've forgotten or not internalised my request.
But if I don't know what a thing is called, it's harder for me. I am afraid of being perceived as fussy or uncaring or something if I just tell people I don't like speaking on the phone.
I'm part of a circle of aspie friends who see each other every few weeks or so. Some of them have hardly any problems with sound and visual clutter; but because 'sensory overload' and 'sensory problems' are part of my vocabulary, I can explain to them why I don't want to go on an outing to a bowling alley, for example.
Some of the problems of not being able to explain why:
Three of these aspies are very comfortable with telephone conversations. Two of them can go on chatting for an hour at a time. (I was like that when I was a teenager too.) They often phone, but I usually don't answer. I send a text message later. It also happens that some friends will phone just after I have sent a text message, because they then consider me to be 'available', and they're perplexed when I just don't answer.
The hardest is when there's a new aspie in the group, feeling insecure already, and then I don't take calls. (I'm one of the contact people when others are referred to group or enquire via the Web or Facebook.)
I've told some friends that it's hard for me to speak on the phone, but they're miffed, because when I do actually take a call sometimes, I sound 'normal'. (They don't understand that it takes effort to do that.) They think I'm being rude at other times, or that I don't like them.
So, what should I do?
I don't want t keep doing this. It makes other people feel rejected, and it makes me look like I don't care. How do I explain to them (and to neurotypical friends, clients, family members and others) why I don't like speaking on the phone? Why it causes me distress? Is there some kind of short label for this? Or some summary explanation, such as "because my telephoneographicalisation neurons misfire when they send signals to my limbogangleocognitive dendrites" -- or something else that sounds plausible?
Additional information, maybe not important:
I do sacrifice sometimes, especially if it's my mother or best friend. And I am obliged to take calls from the office when I am home (that doesn't happen often). Sometimes I'll also take a deep breath and answer the phone if it's my dyslexic relative, because sending a detailed message is as much trouble for him as it is for me to talk.
Naturally my phone aversion is more so when I'm experiencing sensory/emotional/cognitive overload (sometimes I can hardly talk at all at such times), but it's still there all the time even when I am in pretty good shape.
There are actually some odd exceptions too (when I am in a normal, not stressed state), such as taking incoming calls from new clients at work -- I don't mind that, and I don't know why, exactly; maybe because the conversation is quite predictable and controllable, and I don't have any emotional connection to the person? I don't like taking calls from existing long-term clients, though, even if I like them.
Other than relaxing with other aspies in a group, the easiest interpersonal situations for me are business meetings and work collaboration with clients. I know the protocols, we focus on a common goal, we are not expected to 'get along' as buddies (which would require me to 'be myself' whilst being myself is not acceptable, really). We get along extremely well and are mutually stimulated by the problem-solving. I am good at running meetings and participating in them, although it's actually best if my colleague is with me because he sees what I miss and can take care of the gaps.
Most clients would never guess that I am autistic, and many are incredulous when I tell them. When I am not stressed, I seem quite 'normal', just a bit more fun and quirky and energetic than many people (I have ADHD).
Personally, I don't feel absolutely obliged to answer an incoming call, because it's my phone and I can do what I want with it. If it's urgent, they can leave voicemail.
However, I feel bad for the other person who may want to talk about a personal problem or a more complex practical thing, and not wait. Especially my friend who is in prison. I understand. There are times when even I feel insecure too and I want to talk to my best friend and cry, or make him feel OK by talking when he needs support. I do understand why they would want to talk or have a bit of friendly banter or discuss something.
My mother knows I can be avoidant sometimes, and although she doesn't quite understand it, it doesn't cause her to feel rejected, it just inconveniences her sometimes.
My voicemail message (new, recorded about 3 weeks ago) says, "If you're hearing this message, it means it is either difficult or impossible for me to communicate with you vocally. Please leave me a message, or if you want a quick response, hone my office."
My best friend said that when I don't want to take calls I should switch the phone off completely so that the message will kick in immediately, rather than letting it ring and ring and eventually go over to voicemail. But I am concerned that if there's an emergency phone call or text message (for example from my mother, who may need help with my demented father), then I won't get the call or the message.