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35 Dumb Things Well-Intended People Say: Surprising Things We Say That Widen The Diversity Gap

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  451 ratings  ·  76 reviews
EVEN WELL-INTENDED PEOPLE CAN CAUSE HARM Have you ever heard yourself or someone else say: "Some of my best friends are... (Black, White, Asian, etc.)"? "I don't think of you as... (Gay, Disabled, Jewish, etc.)"? "I don't see color, I'm colorblind"? These statements and dozens like them can build a divide between us and the people we interact with. Though well-intended, th ...more
Paperback, 141 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Morgan James Publishing
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Jul 28, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Folks engaging in social justice dialogues
For those looking into this book, this is not a book filled with theories or grounding frameworks regarding social justice and the work associated. There are no models on how ally development works or how folks deal with privilege and marginality. What this book does provide is a simple guide on how to engage in dialogue with those different from you.

This book is based on one of my favorite tenets of intergroup dialogue: intent versus impact. Most of us are well intentioned in our interactions
Jun 26, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
I hate how she quotes herself all the time. I also don't agree with everything she says. Some of the comments and sayings she feels we shouldn't say I don't agree with. I also feel like she only represented certain groups in the dumb things being said. I feel that she didn't look at everything. Overall I feel her book was not complete. It did have some helpful points but needs to be expanded. I also don't like how everything is from a personal standpoint. In doing that I feel as if she was only ...more
Aug 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: tbr-2020-08
Short, but packed with practical information about how those with good intentions can cause harm and how to avoid the most common pitfalls when communicating with people from different or disadvantaged groups.

I'd recommend this book to every human being.
Oct 08, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: higher-education
I just could never take this book seriously. The author states at the beginning that there is no scholarship or research involved, just her own opinion. There were a couple hints I agreed with, however just reading her book I felt targeted the whole time as the “problem.” I did not feel that as someone interested in justice this book was written to help me, just to demoralize me.

I recommend many, many other books including “White Out” by Alexander Jun or “The Myth if Equality” by Ken Wytsma.
Marisa Jones
Oct 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
I read this book for a class. While I believe Dr. Cullen writes well, I personally did not like this book. Most of the things she says people shouldn't say I don't necesarily agree with. Also I believe she is biased towards certian groups of individuals, making large over-generalizations put her points across to her readers. ...more
May 07, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: misc
had to read it for "diversity" training thus the experience was like trying to eat a terrible meal someone made while faking a smile and saying "oh yes, this is wonderful!" the book is what it says in the disclaimer -- made for humor, entertainment and a general guide to not offend people. key word general. I imagine this book would be helpful for a small portion of people but definitely not all. ...more
Kari Jo
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
A great read for someone interested in starting their social justice journey.
Aug 31, 2020 rated it liked it
A quick, easy read that can be a helpful starting point for folks just beginning diversity and inclusion work.
James Uscroft
Jul 05, 2020 rated it liked it
My only problem with this book is that as a 'Politically Correct' & 'Culturally Marxist,' 'Radical Leftist,' Feminazi, SJW, (or 'A Considerate & Respectful Person Who Seeks To Learn & Grow & Opposes Defensive Bigotry' as we used to be known before we all realised solving the problem would mean accepting that we are a 'PART' of the problem,) the points that the author makes are so mind-boggling obvious and ridiculously simplistic that I almost felt cheated. However, this book isn't for people lik ...more
Rachel Dieter
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was ok
I would recommend this book to those who are just beginning their allyship journeys, and/or those who educate on diversity and inclusion and would like a tool to use in explaining the intent and impact of many common sayings. Cullen includes stories of her own mistakes, which can make this book more accessible to those hoping to learn.

I felt it was a little basic, and I was bothered by how Cullen quotes herself in her own book. Definitely not a book without value, just not what I hoped it would
May 09, 2018 rated it did not like it
Shelves: non-fiction
I was required to read this book for training as a Resident Assistant in college. The title itself bothers me. But then throughout the entire book the author continues to quote herself, rather than draw from outside sources or research studies. The main theme of the book is that we should all be aware of our intentions vs. our impact, but that was probably the only useful thing that I got out of the entire book.
Sep 03, 2018 rated it did not like it
I was required to read this book for training as a member of Residence Life at a distinguished college. It was intended to be a book from which we started a conversation about diversity and I found that it fell short in that regard. While it addressed the idea of intent vs impact, it failed to spark a true conversation about diversity.
Oct 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-nonfiction
This is an excellent primer for diversity awareness and training. She seasons her text with personal experiences of being advantaged and disadvantaged. We all say dumb things -- but how do we go on from there? Do we learn and grow and help others do so? Well worth the read.
Rikhia Chatterjee
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
I had to read this book for a course in college, and I got very frustrated with the writing and content. The author makes broad generalizations, has a patronizing writing style and does not explain why. Although perhaps well-intentioned, I found a lack of depth and scrutiny within the book.
Alex Lawless
Final edit after attending a workshop with the author: the book definitely comes off better when there's a discussion around the material. She talked a lot about her experiences as a lesbian, but it was still such a very narrow viewpoint. I don't know, I still think your message isn't coming through clearly when I have to go to a workshop by you just to get the full picture of intent. But, I stand by my evaluation of it being a good beginning step resource. Not your be all, but definitely helpfu ...more
David Baer
May 27, 2019 rated it liked it
This book probably would have been better read at the age of 18 than at the age of 52. I didn't spend the intervening years saying a lot of the dumb things, but I thought a good half of them at some point or another. Hence the inherent wisdom of keeping your mouth shut whenever possible.

It was only in the last year that I learned that Chanukah is actually a minor Jewish holiday, basically "for the kids", and so it turns out that saying "Happy Hannukah" isn't dumb per se but it is a strong indica
Christine Esche
Aug 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a very quick read which is sensible and accessible. Hardly great literature, but that’s not what this book is for. This is not research or in-depth analysis. It’s meant to serve to actually give you basic understanding and practical tools to take with you in life. I get the sense that she knew exactly what market she was going for: Touring the country and doing diversity trainings.

The author came to speak at my company the other day and she was a delightful and engaging speaker and her
Alex French
Apr 21, 2019 rated it liked it
I went to a 1-hour presentation at Dartmouth by Maura Cullen which I thought was quite good, and thought it was worth picking up this book.

The good:

It's a very quick, easy read or skim. A lot of it is things I think I'm really aware of, but a little extra conscious thought can't hurt.

Two individual bullet points in the list of 35 really stood out- one where I noticed I should do better, and one where a co-worker really should do a lot better, and I should try to help make them aware and guide th
Jade Pham Gift
Mar 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
It's not what I thought it would be; insightful yes, on some of the unintended dumb things that we would say. However, if this book was meant to help us to be more "inclusive" in our communication with others, it didn't do it for me. The reference of "people of color" was quite offensive. It would have been so much better to leave the reference of "people of color" out of the context, and addressing the problems to all people instead. We all stumbled and said these things ourselves not just one ...more
Jamie  Cayley
Feb 28, 2021 rated it it was ok
Shelves: cou710, nonfiction
I knew from the second I read the blurb that this was going to be a painful read, and had I not been required to both read it and write a 6 page paper on it, I never would have picked it up. I think it does a good job of taking lots of commonly said things and highlighting the difference between what the person saying or asking the question think of it vs what the impact of the words are on the person in the receiving end, plus giving tips on how to be a better ally and how to better react when ...more
Jul 07, 2019 rated it liked it
I think this is a good stepping stone for people, specifically white heterosexual people, to begin learning about the impact of language on social dynamics; however, the some of the content bothers me coming from a white author. I do not discredit the necessity of including topics of race in this book, but I do think that it should have been multi-authored with personal tales and perceptions from people of color as well. In many ways, its current state can increase its readability to a white clo ...more
Madison (FlipThePage)
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I received this book during RA training. I never picked it up until now when I was trying to explain to someone why what they were saying was harmful to others but I had difficulty explaining it. This book explains things in simple terms and is straight to the point. The writing is not amazing but that’s not the point of the book. The point is to educate people about diversity of all kinds and to equip the reader with knowledge so they can be a more informed member of society. I feel as though t ...more
Lori Wolf-Heffner
Jan 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
A wonderful book. It answers the question, "Why can't I say that?" with compassion. There are no finger-pointing rants here. Dr. Cullen draws attention to the minutiae of language and why certain, well-intentioned statements and questions actually mean something unintentional and harmful.

My only complaint about this book is that the editing and interior layout are quite bad. I don't want to explain this in too much detail, because it'll detract from the general message of my review.

I strongly en
Mandi Miller
Jul 27, 2017 rated it liked it
"Noticing difference is not the problem. It's what we do when we notice that matters most." We have all at one time or another said what we thought were well-intended statements to people who are different from us. However, these statements can have a lasting impact on those who are on the receiving end. This book is helpful in recognizing some of those statements and learning how saying them can affect those around us. ...more
Anna Deniz
Dec 21, 2017 rated it liked it
If you are living in the US and you are new to this diversity, then this book might be helpful. If you have well intentions but still you make someone frustrated, then this book might be helpful. If you say something and you are unable to understand the response, then again this book will be helpful:)) Cullen makes very clear and simple statements, which could improve our culturally diverse relationships.
Dec 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Simple and concise descriptions. Explained the "dumb things" we say in an easy way I could understand; had phrases I already knew were ill-advised, some I didn't know, and others I knew but couldn't articulate why exactly they're bad. Will keep on-hand as an easy "explain-diversity" resource. ...more
Katy Johnson-Kozal
Should be on the list of required reading

This book is right to the point, provides good analogies and relatable stories to fill in concepts and suggestions. It is an easy read; and a great opener to broadening one’s ability to overcome communication barriers when it comes to healing and empowering those of us who have been disadvantaged.
Heidi Doyle
Jul 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
If I could get a copy of this book in everyone’s hands and have them actually read it, the world might be a better place. The points that the author makes are simple and clear and I found myself rethinking some of these phrases that I know I’ve said or that I know I’ve heard people around me say. This is a great book for starting conversations about inequality, in all its forms.
Ryan Beaty
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
A very helpful and challenging book. An easy read that will not be easy on your soul. Will be especially challenging to people of faith, but very necessary to consider and learn from. Highly recommend.
Nidhi Oberoi
Nov 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When Other people make mistakes, we seek justice
When we make mistakes, we seek compassion
The lesson is to give to others what you seek-Maura J Cullen

A must read for everyone in this day and age!!
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