I absolutely love a nice orange or yellow bell pepper. I’d eat ‘em like apples if they didn’t cost so much and weren’t so hard to find.

I can’t stand coconut. The texture of dried coconut drives me batty and you couldn’t pay me to eat it. Well, maybe for $1 million. Sure. I could eat some coconut for a million dollars.

What does this have to do with anything?

Everything.

We constantly read posts that tell people when to post on Facebook and Twitter. We tell each other how to write the perfect email newsletter. We suggest the perfect subject and framing for photos on Instagram and Pinterest.

We back all this up with data! Numbers! Science! Wissenschaft!

But at the end of the day, we’re really only showing what works for a specific group of people with a common interest. Or we’re showing what works as an average across a great number of groups of people with disparate interests.

Look, data is great. I love data. Data is a friend of mine.

But let’s take bacon: Everyone loves bacon, right? I mean, if you want to appeal to the masses, just add bacon!

Sure. Unless your target audience leans heavily vegetarian.

I wasn’t thinking about any of this when I posed the question to my friends on Facebook, “What’s one food you simply cannot eat because you just dislike it so? Not because you’re allergic.”

People always give me the side-eye when I say how much I dislike coconut. Like I’m missing out on something spectacular. I was curious about other people. The responses rolled in. And in. And in. And are still rolling in.

First, I felt validated in how many others truly despise coconut as much as I do. (For the record, I love coconut milk in a curry, just don’t give me the dried, shaved stuff.) Don’t we often feel better when people agree with us? Some of the responses were beloved foods that I nonetheless wasn’t surprised to see on the “hate” lists – mayonnaise, peanut butter, mushrooms, cottage cheese, beets, liver. (OK, maybe liver isn’t beloved, but no one’s really surprised at it being on the “hate” list – though, for the record, I happen to love liver in many forms. Though I’ve never had it with fava beans and a nice chianti.)

But then: Bell peppers, cinnamon, apples, chocolate.

Chocolate. Yes, someone I know hates chocolate. The smell, the taste, the texture.

The point (finally, yes, that!) is, you need to really find out who you’re talking to. Understand what they like and don’t like. Understand when they are interested in hearing what you have to say, and when they’re not. You can use data to figure this out. Just remember that the only absolute is that there no absolutes. Even in math, there are four or five different ways you can get to the right answer.

 

Published on: Aug 31, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.