Orly Israel offers free listening services to the community
There are three obstacles that keep us from being good listeners, according to Orly Israel. The El Segundo resident says those three obstacles are trying to fix problems with the “You should” or “Why didn’t you?” questions, diminishing phrases that start with “At least,” and making the conversation about you by using the “Well, I,” starter.
“My main goal is to figure out how to share the thought that communication skills are valuable and they’re not too hard to get your feet in the water with,” Israel said.
Israel has been setting up a table, something he calls Listening Tables, in various public locations across the Westside and South Bay every weekend since November with two big signs taped to the front. One on the left says “Here to listen” and the other says “No judgment, no advice, no charge” with Israel sitting behind the table ready to listen.
People can walk up to the table, take a seat and talk about whatever they want. Israel doesn’t judge, he doesn’t try to interject or suggest advice.
“Like 80% or more are people that are saying they’re working through something in their lives that they need to vent about,” Israel said. “People really want to be understood.”
During the week, Israel is a children’s television writer. His father was also a TV writer and growing up, Israel always knew that there are two parts to a story: what’s going on and then what’s actually going on underneath.
It’s what made Israel want to learn more about communication skills and the ways people don’t properly communicate. He started questioning whether what he called “normal family arguments” were a necessity or something that just existed because people don’t talk about good communication.
“I think if people were able to be more in touch with their own layers underneath, everyone would be better understood and get along more,” Israel said.
Israel has had all sorts of people come and chat at his listening table from high school and college students to 60-year-old couples. Anyone can walk up to a listening table, sit down and talk about what’s on their mind, and Israel will listen. He won’t judge, he won’t suggest and he won’t argue. He just listens.
“I’ve learned what the challenges of listening are because sometimes people will say things you don’t agree with,” he said. “I’m trying to learn how to be a better listener which is why I started this table.”
Some people who come to the listening table also come to be better listeners themselves. They’ll sit behind the table with him and silently observe. Israel said his goal is to have a table set up in every town in Los Angeles, with other listeners regularly helping him out.
Israel recently set up his 61st table and he has doubled his efforts to spread the message about the value of listening and good communication. He posts his updated locations regularly on his social media channels.
“I think communication skills can be learned and improved over time,” he said. “I’m trying to spread awareness that communication skills can be learned.”
The Listening Table