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Sounds & Seems: Did you get it?

Updated: Oct 29, 2022

Communication is one of the most complicated, multi-faceted, and yet crucial components of how we interact with others around us.

Our ability to be heard – to be understood – to be part of the collective, to share wisdom, facts, and information, or to just simply give a weekly update on our activities hinges on how those around us who ‘hear’ what we are saying can, in fact, tune their ear to understand us.

"If hearing is to awareness, then listening is to discernment."

We often, in conversation, hear terms like “it kinda sounds like” or “it seems like” as a means for the listener to put a framework around the speaker’s words, descriptions, or terms to help create clarity.

We, the speakers, put a great deal of gravy around our words because we know all too well that not everything we say, in the way we say it, is understood!

We, can, in our drive to communicate, cause confusion, befuddlement, and leave the listener needing qualification. Have you ever wondered why so much of what we hear, listen to, and comprehend is not fully understood or, worse, goes terribly wrong? And let’s face it, it does go wrong – a LOT!

The definition of hearing is the faculty of perceiving sounds. Our ability to hear sound hinges on our ear’s ability to detect volume, pitch, rate, and pauses or vocal fillers. Tone and cadence drive, in many cases, comprehension. Too slow and we drift away; too fast and we become overwhelmed; too expansive a use of vocabulary and we struggle to understand what the speaker is referring to; so, it follows that perceiving sound is one small step in understanding.

"An effective speaker takes stock of their audience and shares information using language and vocabulary their listener can easily understand."

To listen, however, is to take notice of, process, find alignment with the content and discern the language into useful information for you, the listener.

The true listener can still their mind, quieten their desire to respond, and allow the ‘words’ to percolate into understanding, but in all fairness to the gift of listening, even the most developed minds sometimes need clarity.

The true speaker, conversely, takes the time to share information using language and vocabulary that their listener can easily understand and, more importantly, process.

Some of the most successful leaders, coaches, and advisors are both tremendous listeners and speakers. The cojoined skills bring a depth of understanding, acceptance, and allowing that arises from the gifts they bring.

We each love a good listener but often do not appreciate the complexity and strength it takes to become one. We also love a good storyteller or a leader who shares clearly, thoughtfully, and patiently. If hearing is to awareness, then listening is to discernment. Being aware is the first step in the journey to understanding, with discernment, the wisdom to use what you have heard wisely and effectively.

"80% of communication is non-verbal – in this Post Pandemic era with video conferencing as a key tool, we are missing crucial elements in communication effectiveness."

The missing link for many of us in this post-Pandemic era is the lack of non-verbal communication cues that have, until now, been an active part of our communication tool kit.

With over 80% of communication being non-verbal, we are now missing key elements of comprehension and true understanding. While video is helpful, weak lighting and muddling, fancy fake backgrounds dull the micro facial movements vital to our conversations, leaving us craving more elaboration and detail around the words we do hear.

No surprise then that the terms ‘sounds like’ and ‘seems like’ help us to both create a framework of understanding along with using these expressions to cross-question the speaker to truly understand what they are trying to communicate.

"Did you know that the most successful conversationalists have a 50/50 balance of listening versus speaking?"

Perhaps the time between the hearing and sharing tones allows the brain to process the content. While hearing is tone, listening is noticing, allowing us to feel connected to the speaker. Our need then to clarify what we have heard to allow the fragile strand of connection to flourish is vitally important to us.

Next time you speak or listen to a conversation, take a moment to appreciate the speaker's attempt to communicate with you; take mental note of the words, phrases, and attempts the speaker is making to qualify, improve, and expound on the subject being discussed.

There is so much more effort being exerted to provide ‘you,’ the listener, with valuable content. Learning is one thing. Learning to adjust to someone’s language, ways, and means of vocabulary choice, and sharing a story are equally as important.

When we slow down, when we listen quietly, when we process in real-time versus ‘ahead’ of time, we allow the speaker the space to share in their terms. No need to jump ahead or cut them off but instead give rise to the ‘allowing’ that sharing words brings to a moment of conversation.

"Seems like and sounds like = Listen more carefully – Adjust your language and improve your results."

If your conversations result in your listener qualifying your story with expressions such as ‘it sounds like you…..’ Or it ‘seems like you are saying….’ Then it is time to listen to your own words and find ways to improve, adjust or perhaps just slow down.

Communication is, as they say, a Two-Way Street!

It ‘seems,’ therefore, and possibly ‘sounds’ like, the speaker needs to improve their language to be better understood, and perhaps the listener needs to exercise an elevated level of patience and grace.


Dina O'Reilly is 4xi's Strategic Partnership & Growth lead, she is also our Project Management Office lead, and Ghostwriter in Residence, providing BLOGS+ services to clients. To learn more, contact Dina at


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