Many years ago, I had a summer job selling advertising for the Italian Yellow Pages. My supervisor couldn’t figure out why I wasn’t having much success. “You’re not phone-shy,” he said.
I’d never heard the term before, but knew immediately what he meant. I was in my teens, and my confidence didn’t quite measure up to his assessment.
I loved talking on the phone with my friends – my mother could never figure out how we had so much to say after spending the day together at school – but I found it intimidating to invite a guy I liked as a date to a party, or even to order pizza.
I like to think I’ve evolved. As a journalist, you can’t be phone-shy. Or in-person shy. At the very least, you can’t let it stop you from doing your job. There may be discomfort on occasion, but there’s also enormous benefit – the more experience you get, the less shy you become. And I can’t imagine a job that’s more interesting.
Being a reporter allows you – forces you, sometimes – to talk to everyone from celebrities to regular people with a wide range in between, and to ask questions you might not ask otherwise.
In my case, I’ve also had occasion to speak publicly, mostly to small groups, about my work.
Mordechai Ben-Dat, my editor for some 19 years when I worked at The Canadian Jewish News, offered me succinct advice, which I’ve never forgotten: Be prepared.
His counsel has stood me in good stead. I’m not (phone-)shy any more – most of the time, anyway.