A few years ago, I had several guests over for dinner.
We all sat around my living room, waiting for the last guest to arrive.
Finally, as he came in, he said, “Sorry I’m late, everybody. When you go through a divorce, everything takes longer, like finding your daughter’s sweater. Plus, traffic is getting rough in this city.”
One of the other guests said, “I know what you mean about traffic. As the tech industry grows, people keep piling into San Francisco and causing congestion everywhere.”
Another said, “Well, you’re here now. Sit down and relax.”
We sat down to dinner and talked about superficial things, like how San Francisco is changing and why it never seems to be sunny here.
What a missed opportunity.
Most people fail to recognize the most meaningful conversation topics. Our friend shared something I call a “shoved fact.” He didn’t need to mention his divorce. He could have simply said “traffic is awful in this city,” and everyone would have related and moved on. But he intentionally pushed his divorce into the conversation. He was dying to talk about it because it was a big issue for him. He brought it up, and none of us acknowledged it.
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The shoved fact is very similar to the psychoanalysis term “Freudian slip,” which says a slip of the tongue may represent an unconscious wish or internal train of thought. As conversationalists, we often ignore the teeny slips of the tongue because they’re mostly meaningless. The average person slips on up to 22 words per day.* But when someone pushes a big topic out of context, we need to be aware that they might be expressing a yearning to talk about it—especially during an interview.
I ask Mixergy’s producers to look for shoved facts as part of the pre-interview process. So when producer Arie Desormeaux pre-interviewed Chris Martinez, founder of DUDE, the website and design agency, he said that he played soccer and mentioned that he got into it to escape his abusive childhood. Arie noted down the shoved fact.
On the day of the interview, I asked Chris about it, and he opened up about being beaten as a child. He cried while telling me about the time his mom pulled over their car and didn’t stop hitting him until she noticed people watching. The story was painful to hear, and I’m sure even more so to tell, but it helped me understand his superpower. As an entrepreneur, Chris wasn’t held back by embarrassment the way others might be.
He then told me a great story to illustrate the point: After Chris moved his digital agency to Tijuana, Mexico, he noticed that some clients were hesitant to work with him because of Tijuana’s reputation. They couldn’t stop thinking of Tijuana as the place Americans go to drink tequila, let go of rules, and have a raucous time.
Instead of trying to hide his home base from clients, Chris talked it up with pride. It became part of his marketing. He wore a Mexican wrestling costume at trade shows, which got attention at the buttoned-up events. When trying to close a sale, he explained that his agency could charge less because of where it was located. After signing each client, he pulled out a bottle of tequila to celebrate.
Addressing his shoved fact helped me understand him better. It helped me understand his superpower. We’re now a little closer because of it.
Look for those shoved facts, and don’t be afraid to dive into them.