Conversation Starters


There they sit on my desk; a compass, a magnifying glass and a clock. The compass has the inscription, “Life is a journey not a destination.”

Whether it’s after a workshop or someone has dropped in unannounced and would like a word in my office, when someone draws up a chair beside me, these three are close at hand. Invariably, their eyes take in the objects and they make some comment. Picking up on whatever they say, a conversation ensues. Usually I’ll ask them which of the three speaks to them, or which of the three is the most important to them and why.

The compass you see provides direction; it not only helps you find your way when you’re lost, it can help keep you on track when you know which way you’re headed. The magnifying glass brings things which are small and hard to see into focus; enlarging them. The clock? Well the clock never stops does it? Time is moving on and the seconds that pass as we talk about time can never be reclaimed or experience again once they’ve ticked past. Time? Time to get going. Lest you see the clock as only marking regret for time lost, the clock can also be a blessing if it reminds a person they have time ahead of them as well; time to spend.

Now the thing about the three is that neither is more important than the other, but to any one person at the point we meet, one will take on greater importance than the others. To someone confused about their career direction, what they want to achieve or do – the compass and the direction it implies is what they want more than anything. To someone with multiple barriers or so many things going on in their life they find it difficult to give their job search the focus it requires, the magnifying glass speaks. The clock maybe not surprisingly, speaks more to the mature or older people who take up the seat next to me. Younger people in their 20’s say, well, they believe they have all the time in the world; certainly enough that the clock isn’t as ominous as it will be one day.

It was out in a store during a busy Christmas shopping trip that I spied the three. They weren’t assembled as you see them in the photo here. No, they were in various parts of the store, but it was the line of work I’m in and the conversations I have many of that first brought to mind the idea of assembling them together. My brain just works this way; always thinking of creative ideas. Even now as I write, I think about the old-fashioned journals so popular in book stores, and how one of these and a quill pen might be good additions, for those who’d like a fresh page to begin writing the stories that make up a life. However, maybe my desk might get a little cluttered?

They are pretty good conversation starters though. The nice thing is that I don’t have to actually say anything to get conversations going. While we talk walking down to my office, sometimes I’ll take just a fraction of a minute to let them get settled in as I load their personal file or feign moving a few things around on the desk to give them room. The objects before them draw their attention in and while most just make a remark, some will ask if they can hold one. “Why that one?” I’ll ask.

And that’s all it takes. It’s not so much about the ones a person didn’t take up or talk about, even though all three are important. No, the most important thing is just to listen and comment on what I hear. A question here or there; sometimes what they share is better, more relevant and certainly much quicker delivered than had I asked a slew of questions. In fact, a litany of questions might come out more like an interrogation!

Work spaces are very personal areas. Do you have pictures, quotes, maybe a combination of the two, other articles etc. that draw out or inspire conversation? Would you be willing to chime in with a comment about what you strategic place in your work area, why you’ve chosen what you have and the impact of those things on those who come into your space?

It would be interesting to share, to read and perhaps for some to copy. I’m sure I’m not the only one to have objects around them for conversation; possibly others even have the same three objects as I do. Sometimes, I move the clock so it faces me and I substitute in an hourglass. Same kind of device to mark the passing of time; the thing about the hourglass is people like to flip it over. so it becomes interactive. Time appears to stop when the last crystal of sand drops, but of course it stops no more than the clock does when it’s battery expires. Time marches on.

These I have penned about before, so if my musings sound reminiscent of a post past, good for you for recognizing the recurring theme. The interesting thing is sometimes a person returns to my office after some time and they suddenly recall the three, and they remark how their priorities have shifted. That’s groovy.