How to Be Successful When Making a Phone Call Having a Brain Injury

Linda W. Arms,
How to Be Successful When Making a Phone Call Having a Brain Injury

Many things become difficult after a brain injury. We take our ability to perform everyday tasks for granted until after our brain becomes damaged. Simple things become a challenge. For me, simply frying an egg and turning it over was extremely difficult and exhausting. A phone call was a multi-day undertaking.

Making an appointment was very challenging for me since speaking, comprehending, thinking, and processing visual input was difficult. I would prepare a day ahead by looking at my calendar and figuring out which days I could potentially go for an appointment. I had to consider also how I would get there since I couldn’t drive. I would note which days and times would work. I would write down what it was I needed to ask and the phone number. Just this process by itself was overwhelming and left me unable to actually place the phone call. Usually the following day I would review my notes and make the phone call. I was often successful when I followed my process, however, if the appointment times that worked for me were not available I couldn’t think through alternate dates while I was on the phone. I would write down the options I was given for appointment times and tell the person I would need to call back.

Here are some tips for being more successful when making a phone call. During the extremely challenging years of my recovery, I did this to help myself get through a phone call and accomplish what I needed to do.

  1. Prepare before making the call. What do you need to accomplish? Are you trying to make an appointment, are you trying to find the answer to a question you have, are you trying to purchase something? Prior to calling, write these things down so you can stay on track during the phone call. Remember there are many things that can lead you off track like the phone menu system of the business you are calling, or the person who answers may ask all sorts of things of you before you can get to what it was you were calling about.
  2. Write the phone number on the same piece of paper that you are writing your notes on. This way you don’t have to search for the number right before you call. If you get interrupted, the phone number and your notes are in one place so you don’t have to go through the effort of re-thinking and locating information.
  3. Review any paperwork, like an invoice or catalog, you need to be familiar with prior to making the call. With a brain injury, it may be difficult to have a phone conversation at the same time that you are reviewing written information.
  4. If making an appointment, have your calendar ready. Review your calendar prior to making the call so you know which days will work for you and which ones will not. Write down the days and times that will work or circle your calendar. Remember there’s a lot going on during a phone conversation. Prepare yourself ahead of time with the information you need.
  5. Prior to making your phone call, you may want to look at the business’ website to be better prepared and informed about their product, business hours, location, etc. This may help you to know what questions to ask during the phone call. It may be difficult to think about all these details when just calling an office and not being prepared.
  6. Make your phone call from a quiet location that is free of distractions.
  7. If you can, make notes during your conversation to keep you on track with what you are learning and what you need to ask.
  8. If the person is speaking too quickly for you, ask them to please slow down.
  9. If the phone call doesn’t end up like you rehearsed just tell them you can’t make a decision now or aren’t sure if that appointment date will work. Tell them you’ll call back. Give yourself time to think through the problem that presented itself during the phone call and call back when you are ready.

I still do this but can now do it right before I make my phone call. My brain needs all the help it can get so I know that by preparing in advance I can be more successful. What about you? Do you have some suggestions to add regarding making a phone call with an injured brain?

Posted on BrainLine March 22, 2017.

About the Author

My name is Linda W. Arms. I am a TBI survivor. My accident happened January 15, 2006. I am much improved but the effects of the injury are still with me and will be part of my life forever. Before the accident, I did not understand the impacts a brain injury can have. During the very dark days of the first years, I grieved for who I was and what I lost. I despaired because I just was not getting better. Very slowly I saw improvements and now 10 years later I can say I am much, much better. My recovery was assisted by many medical providers and by the elusive “Brain Fairy” who works magic (good and bad) in our brains.

You can read more from Linda on her blog:

Comments (6)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

My head injury was four years ago and I am better in many ways but phone calls are very difficult still. I really appreciate this article just for discussing it. In the three months after my head injury (mild concussion from getting hit from behind in a car) I had extreme difficulty making medical appointments. I made very few because I could not do it. I had trouble finding phone numbers, what to say, my processing was slow, and the whole thing was completely overwhelming. After I got off the phone I could not remember what they said, and then I would forget that I wrote anything down. I was supposed to do occupational and speech therapy but I could not make the appointments, so I only did one each. The experience was horrendous. With each bad experience I could not repeat. I had no one to help me. The process described in this article would have been about 100 times to difficult for me. I would suggest asking someone to make appointments for you. I don’t know who that would be because I had no one. Who do you ask when you have no one? Maybe if I had told my doctor they could have helped somehow. I should have had someone with me because I could not even make food. Now I can cook, but the phone is still a big problem.

For me, when the call is answered the first thing I say is, "before I continue, I am a survivor of a traumatic brain injury, and will need you to assist me, by talking slowly".

May I also suggest....writing down your own phone number (call back number) as well.  I always found myself floundering when asked for that information!!

I had a tbi when I was 13. Now I'm 48. I had a lot of trouble with the phone. I don't like talking and I get nervous whenever it rings. I'm glad there are others with the same problem. It's been 35 years since I've been comfortable with the phone. I do things to make my phone call easier but it just doesn't work as well as I think it would.

Spectacular article! Thank you. My son had a severe TBI 3 years ago. Phone calls are still difficult for him because of too many questions that throw him off his track of what he was planning on asking. A quiet area is important, just like you mentioned. My son had to go to speech lessons in order to help him project his voice, because his speech was quieter and difficult to understand over the phone. He is gradually getting better at it. Thank goodness for texting and on-line scheduling because he prefers that. 

Linda, Thanks for sharing your phone call routine. I share many of the methods and use the phone much less than my use before TBI. I am eight years post, and I don't dread my phone ringing as I used to, but it is still not easy. Thanks, Bob