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Permission to Be Strategically Polarizing

Updated: Feb 21, 2022

I recently discovered Marie Forleo, a "multi-passionate entrepreneur." Delighted by others who share my unique first name, this Marie has chosen MarieTV as my go-to podcast.

On a recent video podcast, fascination expert Sally Hogshead encouraged listeners to be strategically polarizing. As we communicators know, almost any message can rub someone the wrong way. And anytime we make our communications fun and lighthearted, persnickety people can get their knickers in a twist.


A year ago I helped my employer's chief information officer (CIO) write an email, introducing a ticketing system called "Spiceworks." To get people's attention, we opened the (internal-only) email with a Spice Girls meme. We got pushback from a few sticks-in-the-mud who felt it wasn't professional. Fortunately the CIO just laughed it off because he realized that emails like those are far more likely to catch attention and actually be read! I did not set out to polarize, but now I've been given permission to use that tactic strategically.

Hoghead shares an example on her own website, which once said, "A hogshead is a barrel that holds 62 what's your last name, smart ass?" This sassy intro resulted in a few people emailing to say they would never hire someone who used that language....and she was perfectly okay with that, knowing she would not be a good fit for them. Strategically polarizing.

You don't have to change who you are to be more successful. Instead, Hogshead said you need to become more of who you are:

"When you become more of who you are, it feels effortless... If you're trying to create messages for everybody, you end up speaking to nobody. If you're not creating a negative response from somebody, you're not fascinating to anybody."

If you're unable to be yourself and more of who you are at work, you're in the wrong job or wrong organization. And if you're not occasionally bothering someone with your communications, you might be putting people to sleep.

Fertile Ground Communications LLC inspires people through story and turns dry language into compelling communications. We specialize in supporting purpose-driven organizations that are working to make the world a better place and helping clients create a healthy, vibrant future for generations to come.

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