Do opposites attract? I don’t like it as a cliché (I dislike nearly all clichés). Nor does it work as social relationship science (in spite of Paula Abdul’s 1988 pop-music urging). But for creative, for idea-building, for writing? Opposites are essential for communication.
When moving my daughter into college three years ago, I spotted a banner the college had printed and displayed for incoming students. I snapped a picture, and it’s been one of my favorite phrases ever since.
“Gravitate to those who think exactly unlike you.”
I impressed upon my daughter how important I found this idea. And it goes beyond just busting out of habits and doing things differently. This is about doing the opposite of what you think you like. It’s about talking with people you think you dislike. It’s “The Opposite” episode on Seinfeld where George Costanza does everything exactly opposite of his first inclination. (“My name is George, I’m unemployed and I live with my parents.” Remember that one?)
We’ve become politically and socially tribal in thought, media habits and even geography. And this is limiting our ability to communicate well, and to generate fresh ideas. I don’t want to talk politics here; I’ll keep this post to communication, from writing an email to designing a flyer to producing a video. Here are 5 benefits of opposites.
1. Clear Descriptions
I worked for years with a group of engineers for whom I created a weekly newsletter. These people were my opposites (in a “left brain v. right brain” kinda way), so I asked a lot of questions, especially when they started tossing around acronyms – pretty much all the time. I recall one meeting where an engineer kept using one particular jumble of initials. “What does that mean?” I asked. He didn’t know, nor did anyone else. But they quickly found out before the communication went any further.
2. Discover A New Audience
Did you know that martial arts enthusiasts tend to like motorcycles? Of course you didn’t. Nor did my motorcycle industry client until I also started doing a lot of work in the martial arts industry. Your potential for business will grow if you search beyond your usual neighborhood.
3. You May Learn You’re Not “Unlike” After All
The first MMA fight I saw live went down at a small but prominent training gym in Pasadena. I mention the size of the space because it meant we got quite close to the fighters, especially close with my “press” pass. Not necessarily a fight fan, I covered the business side of MMA, and I assumed I’d have little in common with the athletes or coaches. I could not have been more wrong. I learned than many MMA fighters are artists – musicians, writers, painters. I learned more from this group of “cage fighters” than I could possibly have imagined. This broadened my network as well as my brain.
4. Prove That You’re Right
If you’re trying to convince your boss, or working to prove the validity of a proposed idea, it’s good to have confidence. And it’s better to have proof. The best way to gain proof is to test with opposites. You can defend your arguments well only if you know all the possible counter arguments. Study ideas opposite to yours so you can broaden your perspective and accurately communication that you’re right.
5. Opposite Colors Make a Dramatic Impact
Communication is about more than words; it’s about pictures, designs and especially colors. Color theory places the spectrum of colors on a color wheel. Picture all colors – ROY G BIV – displayed counter clockwise in a circle. Two colors are “opposite” if they’re across the circle from one another. And color theorists will tell you that opposite colors are complementary. Red and Green are opposites – is there a better example? Blue and Orange also. Purple and Yellow, right Minnesota Vikings fans? The contrast of complementary colors can help your communication pop.
Opposites attract better ideas and improved communication.