“Apologies for the Slow Reply.” The Pleasures of Postal Time.

That’s how Richard Davies opened a recent email reply to me, Nine days elapsed since I wrote to him about several people who might be interesting for him to interview for his podcast “How do we fix it?” and other matters.

Did I mind a slow reply? Just the opposite. It struck me like the difference between fast food which hits on a few tastes and slow food with its complexity and depth of flavors. I enjoyed reading his stories about the upcoming networking coffee he was about to have, his plans for contacting a colleague, and his interest in contributing to a compilation of humanistic business resources I’m putting together.

Reflecting on why I enjoyed reading Richard’s email, I realized that his progress notes and ideas came to me as a whole, not as a series of individual items delivered in discrete messages across a week and a half. That allowed me to concentrate on what he wrote, to think about what to say back, and to feel calm instead of performing the usual drill: react, respond, and go on to the next one.

Colleagues who’ve adopted this “write when you have something meaningful to say” approach realize that exchanging more complete information with context and a point of view offers greater value to the recipient and ups the quality of the conversation. Fewer but more thorough communications contribute to efficiency and productivity in many ways: better understanding, alignment and coordination among co-workers or friends; more time devoted to work; and a relaxed, attentive more open frame of mind.

Slow reply doesn’t mean taking 9 days or some defined period of time, just however long it takes for a stepping-back to see the bigger picture, to figure out what’s really going on, and to map out a path to progress. We hunger for this. One of the most important pieces I’ve read on knowledge management dates from the 1970s. I think the title was “On the need for evaluated information.” The author, a library scientist, argued that knowledge workers needed vetted information organized, synthesized, and presented in ways leading to rapid comprehension, analysis and decision-making. Thirty-five years later that need remains a largely unsatisfied demand. My experience running the Knowledge Center at the Advertising Research Foundation in the late ’00s and early ’10s revealed that’s what members wanted: not just access to information – they had plenty of that – but an authoritative take on an issue from their perspective. They want to know: what does it mean for my brand and business?

The people best equipped to do that level of information gathering, analysis, interpretation, and recommendation are those closest to the situation, not third-parties. Each one of us is that person. If we are to serve our cause, whatever it is, we have a responsibility to offer a slow reply.

Email, IM, social media, and texting advances make it routine to send, post, update, and share. It’s in their nature to be immediate and for us to use them as they would like. But we can use them a little more deliberately at times. When we really have something to say, it won’t be a slow reply at all, but a valuable communication from you. And that’s a pleasure.

Author: stephenrappaport

I write and consult on achieving brand growth. I serve as the Global Digital Advisor for Sunstar, Inc., a global manufacturer of consumer products. I am a Senior Fellow at Wharton’s SEI Center for Advanced Studies in Management, and the author of 3 books on digital marketing and measurement.