ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Are You An Effective Communicator?

Updated on June 29, 2011

One afternoon, my manager forwarded an email advising a change in policy. In short, to gain control of how clients contact our department, we were to provide one central email address, one central telephone number and one central fax number. Knowing that our personal contact information (email, direct line and personal fax) was provided in our signature lines, I forwarded a clarification email to her asking if we were to also modify our signatures to include only the department’s information. Her response came in the form of a question, “Do you have the department’s contact information in your signature or do you have your personal information?”

First, I can’t stand responding to a “Yes” or “No” question with another question, but I realize that’s my personal issue. Second, and little more disturbing, her response seemed to teeter on smart-aleckness. It appeared she was insinuating that my question was stupid. It also appeared that way to rest of the group as she copied everyone on her response to me. Of course our personal contact information is in our signatures. That was the department policy up to then. My cubicle neighbor whispered, “Just ignore it. Don’t respond.”

I took a deep breath and followed her advice…for about ten minutes. Although I wanted to respond in kind to the manager, I decided to take the high road. I sent a short but innocent reply to her question – “My personal contact information is in my signature. I will change it to the department’s contact information. Thank you.”

She sent an immediate reply. “There must be some miscommunication. We are not changing our email signatures. I meant for us to just provide the email, telephone and fax if clients ask how to contact us.”

Many, after reading her earlier response, had already begun the process of modifying their signatures. Why didn’t she just advise that in the beginning, they grumbled. I, on the other hand, thought of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

The Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

I was a manager at a previous job. All managers were required to attend quarterly sessions dedicated to different aspects of managing groups. One session focused on communication. The instructor arrived with a loaf of bread, a spoon, a knife, a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly. We were told to pretend the instructor did not know how to make a sandwich and to provide precise instructions. First, we advised the instructor to take two slices of bread. The instructor looked at the loaf of bread then gave us a puzzled look. We again provided the instruction of getting two slices of bread. She just looked at us, confused. Finally, she said, “Remember, I don’t have a clue about making a sandwich. How do I ‘get’ the slices of bread?”

What appeared as common sense to us – untie the twist on the bread wrapper and remove two slices of bread – was not communicated to the instructor, a person who had never made a sandwich. The lesson taught us not to assume another person understands what we meanbut to make sure we clearly and effectively communicate what needs to be done. It was a similar lesson I learned back in a college communication class: if what you are saying is not understood by the receiver, it is not the receiver’s responsibility to figure it out, it is your responsibility to make it understandable.

If it seems others are constantly misinterpreting your instructions and comments, take the time to think of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Are you clearly communicating or are you putting the responsibility on others to figure out what you mean?


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • cadebe profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago

      Thanks, GrowingDeeper.

    • GrowingDeeper profile image


      7 years ago

      Good hub. Similarly, I was taught in basketball that if the person receiving the pass drops it, it was always the passers fault. We should always place the ball in a place where it can be easily caught. Same goes for communicating, you must know who you are "throwing" the message to and communicate it accordingly.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)