Why Being Put On Hold is So Frustrating

Apr 18, 2014

Horrible music, incredible wait times and an inscrutable labyrinth of phone prompts: We've all experienced the frustrations of being on hold. Even when we're on hold for a minute or so, blood pressure can spike when an automated voice answers the phone.

Why is being on hold so annoying? Dr. Art Markman and Dr. Bob Duke will be with you shortly to explain it. 

Telephone communication is, in itself, an unnatural, disembodied experience. And that can cause disassociated reactions to the things we don’t understand on the other end of the line. 

When we interact in person, we receive a wealth of nonverbal, but very informative cues about what we are experiencing in real time.  On the phone we have a much more limited perspective. 

This makes waiting on hold feel more irritating than waiting in a line in real life, where we can see the wait line move.  When we’re on the phone, it’s just us – alone.

But at least we’re behind the days of landlines.  Most telephones are cordless, giving us a little bit more freedom.  The cord doesn’t cage us, so to speak.

Like dealing with traffic, waiting on hold is just an unpleasant, inconvenient reality in our cushy, modern American lives. The occasional challenge to our patience might actually be a healthy reminder of all that we have to appreciate in life.