When it comes to communication, are you a first responder? Do you answer emails instantly and pick up your phone no matter what? Are you secretly (or not so secretly) proud of your 24/7, lightning fast response times?

If so, you may be selling yourself - and your business - short.

But faster is always better, right?

That depends. If your house is on fire, yes. The faster the fire department can get there, the better. But what about if you’re getting a massage? Or smoking your famous ribs? Or driving through a school zone?

Speed doesn’t necessarily equate with quality. And it sure as hell doesn’t equate with accuracy. Bottom line: The faster you go, the easier it is for you to lose control.

If you’re speeding through your communications, it’s much easier for things to get missed, skipped, or lost in translation. Worse yet, in the rush to respond, you not only lose control of the conversation, you lose control of your time. In essence, you’re letting everyone who contacts you call the shots. Instead of carefully following through on the things you need to do, you’re constantly on your heels, jumping from one thing to the next, based on the agenda of whoever is contacting you at the moment.

This kind of behavior may be optimal when speed is highly valued. Think paramedics, call centers, and fast food employees.

But in many cases, speed comes at a cost.

Think about your relationships. Does your boss/partner/coworker/customer/friend want a quick response or a thoughtful, honest, and accurate response? Do they want fast food or would they rather have those award-winning, slow-cooked ribs?

Good communication can’t be rushed

Ask any therapist and they’ll tell you the key to effective communication isn’t spewing out ultra-quick answers. It requires active listening, careful synthesis of information, and clear, validating responses.

If you’re skimming emails, firing back text messages, and responding hastily to keep your response time numbers up, you’re engaging in sub-par interactions. Fallout from this kind of fast-paced, reactive communication includes:

Confusion and misunderstandings
Missing details and erroneous information
Additional back and forth for clarification and corrections

It’s the ultimate irony. In your quest to save time and be efficient, you’re making more work for everybody.

It’s time to slow down

In a world where lightning-fast technology and instant gratification are often hailed as the ideal standards, it can be hard to wrap your head around the idea that slower might actually be better. But unless you’re a fire fighter, ER doctor, or other first responder, your clients probably aren’t significantly benefitting from a 9-1-1 emergency communications approach. This is doubly (or quadruple-y!) true if you are in any kind of problem solving or consultative role.

Think about it. When it comes to the following professionals, do you want the fastest service or the best service?

Your auto mechanic
Your hair stylist
Your therapist
Your surgeon
Your lawyer
Your bank
Your insurance advisor

Don’t sell your customers, co-workers, employees, and significant others short with timely, but inefficient, communication tactics.

Re-set your expectations

Sometimes, this is the most difficult part of implementing new processes. Not only do you need to change the mindset and expectations of those around you, you have to change your own mindset and the expectations you have for yourself.

If your business currently promises instant, around the clock response times, it’s time to take a serious look at whether that policy is doing more harm than good.

  • Is your commitment to speed hindering your forward progress?
  • Is requiring instant replies impacting the accuracy and quality of your client communications?
  • Is being in constant reactive mode exhausting your team, keeping them off-balance, and quietly sucking the time and life out of everyone’s day?

If any of these questions caused you to raise your hand, nod your head, or even just hesitate a bit, it’s time to make some changes. Stop promising fast responses and dedicate yourself to fantastic communication instead.

  • Implement new policies for acceptable response times
  • Encourage periodic email and phone checks instead of constant monitoring
  • Provide education and training on active listening and other communication techniques

When you drop the focus on instant replies, you give your team the freedom and focus they need to respond with more comprehensive, well-thought-out answers. Which is a gift to your customers as well.


Photo by Konrad Bak 

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