Marcel Mensah | Eat More Spiders
No Judgement. No Advice. Orly’s Listening Table.
Updated: Jan 12
About Orly's Listening Table
Orly Israel is a long time contributor to LONER and an even longer time friend with a deep love of compassion based communication. This past year, Orly has committed to something truly fantastic - listening.
Every week, Orly organizes what he calls "Orly's Listening Table" a space where anyone at anytime can sit down and pour their heart out, without judgement. So far he's tabled 69 times for 49 weeks straight. (81 times as of January 2023)
In the age of constant information and 2+ years into a global pandemic, society's communication skills have become... complex to say the least. By sitting down and committing real time to listening to peoples stories, positive or negative, sad or happy, optimistic or self sabotaging, Orly has jumped out of the pan and into the fire, in an effort to learn as much about compassionate communication as possible.
We got to ask Orly about his experiences and motivations as he navigates almost a full year of this project - and we're happy to share that story with you too.
In a way, LONER swapped seats with ORLY, and got to listen to what he had to say for a change.
M: What is Orly’s Listening Table? Why does it exist?
Orly: My listening table is a place people can experience what it feels like to be really listened to, which is a rarer thing than it should be.
The listening table is a symbol for people to see and think about their own listening skills. I started the table because I wanted to be a better listener. I’ve seen poor communication bring pain and sadness to relationships that should have been full of love. I’m no exception. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to understand more about why people choose to say things they don’t mean.
Eventually, I listened to my parents' suggestion to take some classes on communication. One of my teachers said learning communication skills is like learning to swim, in that you can read as many books on swimming as you like but you’ll never learn how to do it until you get in the water. After hearing that, I knew I had to practice listening and communicating out in the world.
That’s how I started the table.
M: How has the project impacted the communities you visit - from your perspective?
Orly: It’s hard to tell if there’s been much or any community impact yet, but I like to believe that everyone who sits down with me will take away the good feeling of being listened to and will feel like they can give that gift to someone they know when the time is right, like a domino effect.
I’ve set up my table sixty-five times now so occasionally someone tells me they saw me at the table on a previous week or in the newspaper. It’s a small impact, but I’m happy to hear that listening is a growing presence in some people’s minds.
M: Why is “communication” so important to you?
Orly: Good communication is an essential element to good relationships, and good relationships are essential to a good life. A family that gets along is so much more pleasant to be part of than one that doesn’t. Friendships are more fun. Relationships are deeper. Businesses function better. Without good communication, none of that is really possible. On top of that, the feeling of being understood is hard to beat, while being constantly misunderstood is aggravating.
What’s unique about becoming a better communicator is that it’s easy. It’s accessible. Everyone communicates basically all day every day already. We all already have the foundation, all we need are a few extra tools and our quality of life changes dramatically.
M: Why should people care about how they communicate with the world around them?
Orly: We are right now experiencing as a society a huge shift in how we communicate. There’s so much more of it now, and it feels like there’s a microscope on everything. At the extreme, a sloppy, not thorough conversation could ruin your life.
People want to be understood. Better communication helps people get that. I believe people want to get along. Good communication removes a few of the obstacles to that. Good communication doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything, but it does mean that you should be able to talk about it without the conversation going off the rails.
M: How do you see this project evolving in the next 6 months? The next year?
Orly: I’ve done the table fairly quietly until recently, but now I realize that I need to be louder about spreading this message if I want it to be heard. I’ll be looking to get a whole lot more active in sharing my story in the next six months. In a year, I’d like to publish a book about the lessons I’ve learned. Hopefully there will be some good takeaways for people who read it.
M: Consistency has been a big part of Orly’s listening table, can you talk about both how you’ve managed to stay so consistent and why that’s important?
Orly: Consistency came naturally. At first, setting up the table represented stepping out of my comfort zone, which is important to me. At a certain point, the streak got too long to break, so now it’s become a ritual for me. I’ve tabled at least once a week for the past forty eight weeks and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
Being there for someone to share with feels really good. Also, I believe in the mission and I feel like if I keep doing it, I might make a difference in someone’s life for the better.
M: What would you say to artists / makers / movers like yourself that want to jump into a passion project, but don’t know where to start?
Orly: Just start. Collab with me if you really don’t know what to do. I could use the help spreading this message. If you’re like me, you’re never going to be ready. Build the habit of putting yourself in uncomfortable situations and you’ll be in the right place to figure it out along the way.
I started the table because it was the easiest thing on my list of “How to make the world a better communicating place.” What do you have to lose? If you want to talk about it, I’m here to listen.
M: How can people support your vision?
Orly: Yeah, if anyone wants to set up a table in their city, join me for mine in LA, host me on podcast or feature me in any way, or do a collaboration of sorts, reach out! I am trying to spread this message and I will accept all the help I can get. If it resonates with you, let me know! Lastly, thank you very much for listening.
To Stay up to date with Orly's Listening Table (and maybe even snag a seat at the table yourself) follow the project on: Instagram or TikTok or read Orly's ongoing blog here: ListeningTable.com