Flexi Says: Recall that ionic compounds are very brittle. Application of a force results in like-charged ions in the crystal coming too close to one another, causing the crystal to shatter. When a force is applied to a metal, the free-flowing electrons can slip in between the stationary cations and prevent them from coming in contact. Imagine ball bearings that have been coated with oil sliding past one another. As a result, metals are very malleable and ductile. They can be hammered into shapes, rolled into thin sheets, or pulled into thin wires.