Not everyone likes magic.

I happen to disagree.

A magician whose work I’ve studied for many years recently tweeted: “As wonderful as it is, not everyone likes magic. Try to only share your magic with people who enjoy it.”

I found the tweet a bit sad and misleading.

First, let me back up a little and clarify that I am a fan of this magician’s work. His was the very first lecture I attended. I’ve purchased his products and read and used much of his material over the last ten years. I understand that was one little tweet, and that his philosophy about magic and performing is likely much much broader than this one blurb—but I fully disagreed with the sentiment of that one blurb.

There is an old adage in show business that goes like this: If they like you, they will like what you do.

Let’s start with that. If I walk up to a group, shove a deck of cards in someone’s face and command, “Pick a card! Any card!”, they will not like ME. It’s rude to interrupt their conversations in that manner. It’s cliché to start off a magic presentation like that. And, ultimately, the person or group being accosted won’t like the magician.

On the other hand, if I walk up to a group, casually insert myself into their conversation, ask how the evening is going and treat them as people rather than objects for me to mystify, they will get to know me. We will laugh together, exchange handshakes and become acquainted. I’ve made new friends without taking out my cards or even saying that I’m the entertainment for the event.

Soon, they will notice my name tag (it says “MAGICIAN” on it) or inquire about my role in the event. They will ask me to do some magic. Rather than me forcing the magic on them, they have invited me to do something. Why? Because they like ME, and now they will like what I do.

I fully understand that some people don’t like magic. To be more precise, many people have never experienced good, true magic; they have never encountered a real magician who leads with his head rather than hiding behind the tricks. These people who don’t like magic have only had mediocre magic forced upon them by nervous amateurs or have had bad experiences with magic. As a result , they don’t like it. These people have come to think of magicians as being akin to stereotypical clowns—obnoxious, unpredictable and shallow entertainers—hence the origin of the stereotypical vision of magicians.

Some people (many people) say, “I hate magic. I just want to understand it.” Really, they are saying, “I’m not comfortable with ambiguity, and magic shakes me out of my comfort zone. Therefore, magic makes me uncomfortable.”

A well-orchestrated presentation of magic will do that to anyone. It’s supposed to. Absolute astonishment is a moment of gridlock in your brain. Everything shuts down because your brain doesn’t have a convenient way to interpret what just happened. This is the same reason we laugh with good comedians; they have lead us in one direction with a story, and then flip it on its head with the punch line. The result is uncontrollable laughter. In good magic, the result of a good performance is often a stunned silence.

Yes, I’ve run into a handful of individuals over the years who truly dislike magic. As a paid performer, it’s my job to entertain everyone at the event. I’m not saying that you should try to please everyone, because that is a recipe for disaster. But if I ignore those people, I will perpetuate their dislike and stereotypes of magic and magicians. Instead, I see my interaction with them as a chance to redefine magic for them.

Here is what I do: I do magic for their friends, and I focus on building the relationships. If their friends are enjoying themselves, the natural social norms dictate that they will also enjoy the experience. In the end, they may come to enjoy magic… after they like the magician.

MAGICIAN’S TAKE-AWAY: If you’re hiding behind your tricks, you’re doing it wrong. Lead with your personality. Don’t try too hard. I take the role of “host” at many events. I check in with groups to see if their drinks are OK and welcome people to the evening’s festivities. Very seldom will I lead with a trick. If I do, it’s because that group is already keyed up to see some magic. In those cases, by all means dive right in and enjoy the ride! But, if they don’t care about you, they won’t care about your magic. The standard social norms apply to us, too. Shake hands, be polite, be genuine and kind towards others, and it will be reciprocated. If you act like a jerk, that too will be returned upon you. If they like you, they will like what you do.