The Dark Side of Magnetism

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We all admire that person with a magnetic personality. We love to watch those TED Talks which leave our minds reeling with new ideas and inspiration. We are awed by this magnetic ability to both attract and capture the interest of a finicky audience.

However, we must be careful not to forget that magnetism has a dark side as well.

Anyone who has been in architecture school like myself remembers the ‘crits’. These were the critiques in which we presented our designs to a panel of design educators and professionals. They were brutal. We all have our battle stories and some of us are still being treated for PTSD.

I remember one professor told us that every good presentation will elicit either positive or negative comments. If you received a strong emotional response from either end of the spectrum, it was deemed a successful presentation because you weren’t afraid to push your idea to its limits.

However, if all you heard were ‘crickets’, it was a good sign that your presentation was bad. You played it safe.

The same principle applies to any presentation, messaging, or branding your company conveys to your audience.

Think of it in terms of a magnet. Because of its polarity, magnets have the ability to both attract and repel.

This is a good lesson for communicators and marketers. When a message attracts, its magnetism, or the ability to produce “maximum impact” can be measured. For example, Bill Hybels writes in his book, “Becoming a Contagious Christian”, that Maximum Impact is the product of High Potency, Close Proximity, and Clear Communication.

When a message repels, it can be equally forceful. If on one side you achieve maximum positive impact, you are bound to make another group of people equally upset. Your message will also push away people acting to weed out the people who are not, in fact, your true audience. You can’t please everyone. In fact, this repulsion just may be a sign that you are on the right track.

“Trying to please everybody is impossible – if you did that, you’d end up in the middle with nobody liking you. You’ve just got to make the decision about what you think is your best, and do it.”  -John Lennon

So, if you have a conviction that your message has the power to transform an organization, a community, a culture, an entire generation, then don’t be afraid of negative feedback. Embrace it. It’s the sign of a truly magnetic message.

Don’t be that guy who only hears crickets. Be the one who relishes both the cheers and the jeers. Be magnetic.

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