I have three items on my desk which are within arm’s reach of the people I assist in my role as an Employment Counsellor; a clock, a compass and a magnifying glass. I also have on the wall a collage of inspirational quotes on various themed pictures. All four of these items are inanimate; they just sit there and don’t utter a sound but boy do they stimulate thought and conversation.
Now not everyone who comes in my office makes a comment. Sure there are those who are so focused on discussing their own situation that they are blind to anything that might cause them to get sidetracked from what’s on their mind. However, for the vast majority of people who walk in and sit down, at some point their eyes wander over to these objects and they make some introductory remark that I follow-up on with a remark or question of my own.
So I might ask someone who is looking at the quotes, “Which one(s) are you drawn to?”, “Why that one?” or “What meaning do you get out of that quote?” Something that gives the person an opportunity to share what is obviously of some meaning to them personally and may just give me an insight into what they see as important and how they think. I wonder whether they like the quote because of the quote itself or the picture in the background that accompanies the quote.
So sitting in front of them are as I said the clock, the compass and the magnifying glass. To me they are symbols of time, direction and illuminating something clearly that they couldn’t see without the glass. So which do they instinctively reach for? Why that one? Do they fiddle with all three or focus in on one of the three and why? When I tell them why I have the three items on my desk and what they mean to me, they usually respond with some version of, “Oh, that’s cool!” and then they follow this up with something that reveals to me what they are thinking at that moment about their own future and what they need now to realize it.
You see these are really aides that I use to stimulate conversation in a very non-threatening way. I’m sure you know people who are chatty and who require no stimulation whatsoever to engage in conversation. For people like these who are willing to talk about anything under the sun, the items just steer the conversations without me having to do so. For those who are more introverted and less talkative, the items become things they touch, look at, are drawn to; giving me the opportunity to seize on their actions and begin a conversation. “I see you like the compass; it’s good for finding direction when you don’t know which way to move. Have you ever felt that way yourself?”
What I think is interesting is that I didn’t intentionally think of obtaining these things with the purpose of stimulating conversation the way they have evolved in my office. It started with a trip at Christmas when I was actually shopping around for others and spotted the three objects. I couldn’t really buy myself all three at a time when I should be thinking of others, so I did what many people do; I notified those that were on the lookout for items I’d like to receive and got one of the three gifted to me. Buying the other two after Christmas because I liked them and they formed a nice set out of brass which I was drawn to.
And sometimes that’s exactly what happens; we stumble onto ideas rather than set out with purpose and grand design. Then one small thought leads to another and voila, we’ve got this product, this program, this concept realized that helps us and helps those we serve. We could of course tell everyone that we thought of it all along as a complete master plan put into action, but really, we just worked on small pieces and brought them together to create something better than the individual parts.
I wonder if like me, you have created something where you meet with those you serve that is novel, of interest, piques curiosity, stimulates conversation etc.? Would you be willing to share your personal tools that we readers might benefit from?
The great thing about social media is sharing; sharing in this case that is about what creative ideas we have that stimulate conversations and draw people out their thoughts and into dialogue – all with what’s on our desks or on the walls perhaps that surround our workspace.
There are many ways to draw people into conversations and not all those ways begin verbally. Not only are the items useful for stimulating the start of dialogue, they also keep some occupied while I turn to entering information into their file, or leaving momentarily to obtain a printout of a document.
Sometimes, when a conversation is wrapping up, I’ve had people say, “I don’t know why I told you what I did. I wasn’t expecting to talk about that at all; you’re the only person I’ve told that too.”
Amazing that inanimate objects can do so much.