The Power of Polarizing Through Your Writing

The Power of Polarizing Through Your Writing

Whatever you write, you’ll typically get a range of reactions. Some readers will like what you write, some won’t, and some will be somewhere in between.

Many writers who get negative reactions often take it a sign that they’re not good writers, or that their writing style is ‘broken’ and that they need to fix it. They try something different and change things up.

Unfortunately, if you change your writing, there’s a consequence. One segment of your audience now starts to like what you write, and another segment starts to dislike it. You’re back to square one, having to change again.

It creates a never-ending spiral of trying to please everybody – which is an impossible goal.

I’d like to suggest a different way of looking at reader reactions and dealing with them effectively: polarizing readers through your writing.

In order to understand the approach, you first need to know a few things:

The Key is Ardent Fans, Not Readers

It’s not enough to have readers who kind of like your writing and who sort of want to read it every now and again. These types of readers will abandon your writing the minute something new or different comes along.

It’s also very easy for these people to just get busy and then decide reading your writing is a waste of their time. They’ll stop reading completely, they’ll soon stop following your work, and soon they’ll forget about you altogether.

That’s why you need ardent fans, not readers.

Ardent fans are people who absolutely love your writing and are willing to make an effort to access it. They read everything you write religiously, they comment on your posts, they share your content, they apply your advice and they’re ready to promote, support or buy the products or services you offer.

Ardent fans are worth a lot to you. But keep this in mind:

Creating Ardent Fans also Creates Ardent Haters

What ardent fans love is exactly what other readers despise in your writing. In others words, your writing style polarizes readers.

Your writing style pushes reactions towards one of the two extremes of the emotional spectrum. People either love how you write, or they hate it. (Only a few readers muddle somewhere in the middle.)

This is just a reality, and there’s no point in fighting the polarizing effect. In fact, it’s to your advantage.

For example, I tend to use curse words in my writing every now and then. I don’t deliberately curse just because I can, but I find that sometimes a good curse word expresses my attitude authentically and gets my point across.

So I curse. It’s part of my writing style. And the result?

Curse words polarize my readers. Some readers perceive my points as stronger and my style as more genuine, which makes them like my writing significantly more. Other readers find the cursing offensive and disrespectful, which turns them away.

I accept this. I know that in order to get some people to appreciate my writing more, I have to embrace having other people reject it.

There once was a time when getting an email from an angry reader used to make me very insecure about the way I write. I’d be frantic to change it and please that person.

But that time is long gone. Now I see that the people who don’t like me using curse words as collateral damage. I don’t try to change my writing style in order to please them. I keep cursing, because it’s what my ardent fans love about my writing.

And that’s what I really care about: those ardent fans.

You Can’t Please Everybody – And You Shouldn’t

My example was about the way I occasionally curse in my writing. You might have another style of writing that doesn’t involve cursing – but no matter what style you use, playing it up creates a polarizing effect. And that polarizing effect creates ardent fans.

Don’t be afraid of having some people dislike your writing. You may get negative comments. You may get nasty emails.

But on the flip side, you’ll have a very loyal following of people who love the way you write, and you can capitalize on that in many ways.

Of course, being aware of polarization and why it works is one thing. Putting it into practice is another.

In practice, it’s frequently difficult for some writers to accept that some people don’t like what they write, or how they write it. And it does take an amount of personal work to train yourself to be comfortable with that negative feedback.

The most important factor to embracing negative feedback is to realize – and embrace the fact – that you can’t please everybody.

And that you shouldn’t. You should work instead to please ardent fans who appreciate your writing and love your particular style.

If you have trouble feeling comfortable knowing some readers dislike your writing, your mind probably believes (at some subconscious level) that you can find a writing style that makes every person who stumbles upon your content love it.

But that’s only an illusion. And a very dangerous one that you need to let go of.

Real fans always come with a bunch of haters.

The only way to even come close to pleasing everyone is to have a very bland and generic writing style that won’t upset anybody. But guess what? A bland style won’t fascinate anyone either.

Practical Action Steps You Can Put to Good Use

Get your mind used to thinking about polarizing your readers in a constructive way. Learn to care less about what people think of your work, and you’ll feel more freedom to develop your own unique writing style.

Reflect on the unique features that you want to build into your writing style. Then think about them from a perspective of polarizing readers, and embrace the consequences of adding these features in your writing style.

There can only be two: haters and ardent fans. Which would you prefer more of?

With this awareness in mind, consciously practice writing in a style that you feel reflects more of who you are. Remember this will attract more ardent fans.

And when a negative reaction occurs, smile. It’s proof that you’re polarizing your readers and building an audience of people who love what you write. You can take solace in the fact that you aren’t pleasing everyone, by purpose and design, and that you never had to please everyone in the first place.

Post by Eduard Ezeanu

Eduard Ezeanu encourages people to not be shy, to express themselves and become more outspoken, both in their written and oral communication. You'll find more great tips on Eduard's blog, People Skills Decoded, where he shares straightforward advice for developing sharp communication skills.

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  1. I realized some time ago that trying to please everyone, not just in writing, is like trying to find the end of a rainbow. The harder you try the further away you get from where you really should be. Find your voice, write with conviction and be true to yourself. You’ll find your audience. Well, at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

    • He! Great analogy Jen. And true. Trying to please everyone doesn’t work in life or in writing. Yet most of us tend to do it. But awareness that it doesn’t work is the first crucial step in learning to stop doing it.

  2. Edward – I see a lot of writers, or business owners, who actively want to appeal to everyone because they don’t wish to offend, or lost customers …. the list of reasons goes on. But when I look at some of my favourite writers, I can see how many people they alienate with their writing.

    It’s about courage, right?

    • Me too. My favorite writers are nearly without exception writers who polarize people. Whenever I recommend them to others, they either love them or hate them. Either way, they generate a reaction.

  3. Eduard,

    Do you know what you get when you try to please everyone with your writing?
    A textbook.
    Textbooks are written using an unoffensive, academic tone.
    By contrast, I’ve just finished writing my first book. The title of the book is “Lien Law for Laymen”. The subtitle is “California Lien Law Without the Legal Bull$#!t”. It teaches the reader how to understand a complex legal subject without the legal bullshit.
    I thought that it would be a good idea to have an old friend with some knowledge on the subject give me his comments (James warned me not to do this but I did it anyway).
    My friend liked the book but seemed to be put off by the subtitle. How do I know that he didn’t like this word?
    He circled every occurrence of the word Bull$#!t in red pen. Apparently he was offended or thought that I wasn’t being “professional” using this word. Does this bother me?
    Hell no!
    I wrote the book using my voice and I’m not about to make it sound like every other legal book on this subject. I want my book to stand out.
    Will some people be offended at the word bullshit? Of course. But I think that my writing style will appeal to people that want to understand the law but are confused by the legal bullshit.
    So I say, let’s not be afraid to be ourselves.

    • Hey Bill,

      Yeah, Bullshit is one word that polarizes people. I know from experience. Funny, actually now that I think about it, many bloggers I enjoy curse a lot. And I’m sure that like me and you, they got some bad reactions from some people for using profanity. But at the same time that helped them a great deal to stand out, be memorable and have an impact. So, keep going I’d say.

  4. Eduard,
    thank you for the wonderful post, which gave me a new perspective. It gave me a new perspective and courage to continue finish the book I have been wriing, and which I had shelved it due to my doubts regarding my voice in the writing. I wrote it in simple language, I find many of the books are written in a professional way.

    The comment by Mr. Bill is very very useful and it gave me courage to pursue on my writing !!
    thank you once again !

  5. I love what you say here Eduard . . .

    “It’s not enough to have readers who kind of like your writing and who sort of want to read it every now and again. These types of readers will abandon your writing the minute something new or different comes along.”

    In my eyes, text books read this way. They are written in a way that is supposed to be completely neutral and be like Data from Star Trek and supply facts free from emotion or bias. And it’s a shame when a person with a lot to offer seeks this path out of fear of being criticized by anyone.

    A good practice for anyone writing sales copy is to consciously think about who you DON’T want to be resonating with. If you write to the polar opposite of this person, you’ll be singing to the choir of your ardent fans.

    A few weeks ago I had an extremely polarizing post gain 216 Facebook shares in a matter of a few days when it had sat lonely and unshared on my site since 2009. When this piece was finally exposed and shared with a large audience on Facebook, it worked it’s magic as it was intended to.

    I got to do some smiling while a couple of people were arguing against what I was saying and so many more people were absolutely LOVING what it! Thank you Eduard for reminding me how important it is to smile when getting slammed by a criticism. 🙂

    • I agree. And text books are fine if you just want the raw theoretical or factual information. But even that information quickly becomes hard to absorb as you go through it if the presentation lacks any personality. After a few pages, you feel the sudden desire to take a nap 🙂

  6. Eduard, I think this is an important post especially for newer writers. There is always a degree of insecurity following writers around if they have not yet been successful in publishing their books, and so any feedback that comes in to them–whether through a workshop or other commentary–is more likely to be taken more seriously than it should. Of course as writers we all have to improve our craft and go back to the grindstone, but we also need to feel good about what we’ve written, feel confident in it, finish our books and move on to new projects. I think newer writers in particular are challenged to have confidence in what they have authored, simply because they have not been published yet. But the same rules apply to them too. Thanks for writing this.

    • Wise words Joe. Improving their writing style is of course a good idea for any writer. You wanna expand your reach and the impact of your writing. But it’s equally important to not fall in the mindset of trying to please everybody. Because that ends up making you a very dull writer.

  7. Hi James,

    Congratulations on Men With Pens being named one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers. This is indeed an honor since, according to Mary Jaksch, chief editor at Write to Done, the sponsor of the contest, more than 1,100 writers nominated their favorite blogs.

    • Thanks so much for letting me know, Barbara – while we’ve won 4 times in the past, it’s been a couple of years, and I had no idea that our blog had even been nominated this year. So that was a very nice surprise indeed!

  8. Great advice. I’ve seemed to have reached this point. I could care less what everybody thinks. I have a love/hate relationship with this whole blogging thing because it makes us focus more on others and less on quality writing.

  9. Bill, glad you got your book written and they way you wanted it to be done. Honest and transparent with no fluff. You say it how it is and sometimes that’s just what your readers needed. You’ll never please everyone so just work on pleasing yourself. You’ll at least grab the readers you wanted in the first place.

    Eduard – nice post.

    James – can’t believe you’re surprised at being one of the top blogs. Your content rocks! Still putting your wisdom to work in my business and never looking back.


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