The whole polarization concept intrigues me. Polarizing figures like Charlie Sheen, Simon Cowell (former American Idol judge) and Sarah Palin succeed even though they divide their audience. They piss people off. They are disliked and despised by many. But on the flip side they have true fans, people whose beliefs align so closely with theirs that they set up fan websites, buy t-shirts, and talk, talk, talk about them to anyone who’ll listen. When it comes to acerbic, ballsy characters, people either take ‘em or leave ‘em but they don’t forget ‘em.
Most of my life I played to the middle. Played it safe. The more people I could please the better. Ask my mom. She’ll tell you I was an easy child. I entertained myself. I got good grades. I’m sure my former employers would agree that I did not ruffle feathers. I spent hours working on other people’s ideas. I had one entrepreneurial boss who changed her mind daily. I scurried along beside her fixing messes and picking up the pieces in her non-sequitur wake. Never daring to voice my own view. Even as a wife and mother I colored within the lines, following patterns designed by relatives and public opinion. I wanted to make everyone happy.
Enter writing and blogging. My sacred space of freedom. In writing I find permission to be vulnerable. I put up weekly posts divulging my introverted nature (only 25% of the U.S. population are introverts), my struggle to find peace in motherhood, and my closet meditation habit. I admit, I often finish typing, timidly hit the Publish button and sigh. Later I feel nervous and exposed, like I’m undressing in a changing room in the middle of Macy’s with the curtain open, and it’s drafty. What if people think I’m weird? What if, God forbid, they don’t agree with me? I see friends in the grocery store and if they don’t mention my writing I know for sure they think I am a bad writer and out there, not in a fascinating eccentric way but in a Whoa! I’m not letting my kids play with her kids, way. Yet, I keep writing.
Even when I feel separated from the herd, the blog gets me listening to podcasts by Internet Marketing for Smart People and reading posts by Copyblogger. Both offer strategies and insight regarding online writing and marketing. Copyblogger’s formula for effective writing is: Effective Content = Education + Personality. Personality is key. No one has less personality than someone trying to be liked by everyone. If you want to be memorable create a contrast. According to Internet Marketing for Smart People, the middle of the road is the best place to get run over.
Polarization works. Mark Murnahan’s article entitled Polarize Your Audience and Stop Making Everybody Happy states, When you polarize your audience, you set yourself apart from the crowd… You gain respect for being who you are. You don’t have to play it safe in order to be liked.
Charlie Sheen and Sarah Palin are who they are. Even if we don’t like them, there is a part of us that admires their courage to take a stand and their freedom. It seems they have made a fundamental decision to be true to themselves and are sticking with it.
I am not beating my chest and proclaiming I’m Winning! but I am putting myself out in the world. Polarization and writing gave this regular, people pleasing, lady some courage. It’s OK if extroverts don’t understand how I get energy from solitude. It’s OK if my parenting ideas are questioned. It’s OK if some find my closet meditating strange. I created a space for me to be free. I don’t have to dilute my work with likeability. Being vulnerable is ballsy. I see being exposed and true to myself as the only way others can see or not see themselves in my words. I am choosing to get off the wishy-washy fence and take a position. In doing so I hope to help others find direction, feel aligned, be pleased with themselves. Now if I could just get them to buy some t-shirts.;)
Where are you willing to polarize your audience? Where do you take an extreme stance?
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