The Complexity of Ordering a Sandwich

Psychosocial Potential Maximization: Attributes of Goal Orientation

By Paul Jacobs, Ph.D.

SandwichWhether deaf or hearing, successful people prepare, plan and persist to realize their goals. Goal Orientation can be short term or long term. Short-term Goal Orientation occurs within minutes, hours or days; long-term over weeks, months or years.

Goal Orientation can be Short or Long Term

Ordering food at Subway exemplifies short-term Goal Orientation. Whether deaf or hearing, the novice can be overwhelmed. Acoustics are terrible. Ordering off the menu is different than elsewhere. A queue of other customers may pressure you from behind. Embarrassment can trigger panic.

Everything is left to chance when you are without a plan, relying only on visual cues and not-so-perfect hearing. Knowing what to expect, however, significantly assists your chances of achieving the goal of walking away with a sandwich in hand.

Listening and/or speech-reading is much easier when you know what to expect. For instance, the Subway attendant will not ask “How’s your grandmother?” nor state “Antarctica is the lost continent of Atlantis.” Their words will be specific to the context – making a sandwich – as we can see in the following 12 prompts. These prompts show the real-time, step-by-step process of ordering food at Subway.

The process begins with you stating what type of sandwich you would like (e.g., “I’ll have an Italian BLT please”).

  • The server will then ask: “What type of bread would you like?”
  • You: pick your bread (e.g., whole wheat, etc.).  confused
  • Server: “What size bread would you like?”
  • You: pick either a footlong or a six-incher. 
  • Server: “What type meat would you like?”
  • You: pick meat (salami, etc.)
  • Server: “What type of cheese would you like?”
  • You: pick cheese (swiss, etc.)
  • Server: “Would you like it toasted?” 
  • You: Yes or no.
  • Server: “What type of toppings would you like?
  • You: pick what toppings you want or don’t want.
  • Server: “Salt and pepper?”
  • You: Yes or no.
  • Server: “What type of sauce would you like?
  • You: pick sauce (BBQ, ranch, etc.)
  • Server: “Would you like a combo meal?”
  • You: Yes or no.
  • Server: “Eat here or to go?”
  • You: state your preference.  

The server will then state the price of the meal. Once paid for, you will have completed the goal orientated process of ordering a sandwich at Subway.

It is my experience that Subway has the most complex processes of ordering a service. There are more prompts in the process than at any other place that offers a service. If your child can master this process, he or she can master any other process where a service is offered. The processes at other places may be easier to understand and to carry out. For example, a supermarket, a bank or a bar can have as few as three steps. Understanding, not hearing, the process is required to follow these steps until completion. A person who is deaf could therefore order a sub without hearing aids. Knowing what will be said at every prompt significantly helps to provide appropriate and timely replies until the process is completed.  

The Key is Pre-Preparedness

Pre-preparedness significantly helps individuals who are deaf perform everyday tasks that most hearing people can do without a second thought. This is particularly true in places that offer a service. Beforehand, it is helpful to mentally rehearse your actions step-by-step by envisioning every prompt in the process and how you will reply. In addition, factor in possible distractions. For example, one Subway attendant may take another’s role; someone, for whatever reason,  may burst out laughing; or another may spill a drink. Random events, however seldom, do happen when “in action.” And these can be distracting. Having thought of alternatives, however, you’ll be ready to respond. Pre-preparedness helps you to correctly “think on your feet” as you go through the step-by-step process.

Knowing the process also helps to calm nerves when in action. Knowing what to expect in given circumstances increases confidence, focuses energy and reduces the variables. This tactical knowledge accumulates over time and with practice. In other words, your social skills improve the more you experience different environments and different people. Once mastered, it’s not forgotten: the process remains the same. Repetition strengthens confidence: practice makes perfect. In making decisions for and about ourselves, we learn how to plan and be responsible for the consequences.

Whether short-term or long-term, successful Goal Orientation requires pre-preparedness and following step-by-step processes. Parents can teach this tactical knowledge, especially if they work “with” rather than “for” their child. This shift is subtle but important. Working for your child can create conflict and frustration. This was initially the case with Tristan and his parents in my November/December Volta Voices column on Desire. But, as we saw, Tristan’s parents began to work with him through listening, suggestion and communication. Goal Orientation is the next step for this family because their shared goals are just the beginning.

Careful and realistic planning significantly smoothes the transition from school to “real” life. This is why in my previous column I asked, “Are there any friends or family who can provide your child with paid employment whilst at school?” If yes, then this work experience for your child will be invaluable. Chronic unemployment and under-employment are problems for many adults with deafness (Rosengreen, Saladin, & Hansmann, 2009). Early work experience goes a long way toward building skills and learning about how workplaces operate. It also provides a good form of social exposure. Explore other avenues, however, if you cannot find an employment option for your child. Key employment and transitional support services may offer help in the form of career advisors, educational psychologists, social workers and transportation arrangements.

In conclusion, Renee Punch, Peter Creed and Merv Hyde (2005) conducted a remarkable study on Goal Orientation in adolescents who are deaf. This Australian study showed that 65 students who are deaf generally showed more realistic views and achievable career goals than 107 same-aged peers with typical hearing. The students who are deaf generally showed greater career maturity, a better understanding of perceived career barriers and less career indecision. The findings also reported that their parents had purposefully directed their children towards professions that suited and optimized their strengths. The parents also helped steer their children away from professions where their weaknesses would be exposed. Understanding that deafness can cause limitations also assisted Punch, et al.’s, participants who are deaf understand possible career barriers and outcomes. Importantly, this study showed that hearing ability has little or nothing to do with Goal Orientation. Pre-preparedness is purely a thinking strategy that helps us organize and direct the best of our energies and skills. This orientation towards our goals ensures that we maximize our social and professional potential. 


1. Compile lists of the processes in places that require a process (e.g., supermarket, bank, movie theatre etc.).

2. Sit with your child and take them through these processes one by one before doing the process “live.” At first, give encouragement. If they make mistakes or want to give up, remind them of the process. The idea is to increase their independence so they can complete these processes without fear.  


Punch, R., Creed, P.A., & Hyde, M. (2005). Predicting career development in hard-of-hearing adolescents in Australia. Journal of Deaf Studies and Deaf Education, 10(2), 146-160.

Rosengreen, K. M., Saladin, S.P., & Hansmann, S. (2009) Differences in Workplace Behavior Expectations between Deaf Workers and Hearing Employers. Journal for Professionals Networking for Excellence in Service Delivery with Individuals who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing, 42(3), 130-151.