Maura Cullen.jpg

Maura Cullen

MANKATO — Your intentions don’t have to be bad for what you say to have a negative impact.

Maura Cullen, set to speak in Mankato Thursday, based a book on this premise.

The speaker and author of “35 Dumb Things Well-Intended People Say,” will talk as part of a Mayo Clinic Health System special event at 6 p.m. at the Verizon Center.

The author's talk, titled “Taking Adversity out of Diversity," will focus on how our communication styles can help or hinder discussions on inclusion and diversity, whether related to race, gender or sexual orientation. One example, named in the book, of how the well-intentioned can merge with the unhelpful is the people who claim they "don't see color."

While they can claim race doesn't factor into their views, Cullen said it more often comes across as deflection.

“What we essentially say about the statement is if they don’t see color, it’s not their problem,” she said. 

Fear of saying the wrong thing, however, doesn't mean such conversations should be avoided. Rather, Cullen said people should enter into these weighty issues only after a deep breath and an acknowledgement of the issue at hand.

“We’ve all had that experience of blurting something out,” she said. “What I hope people walk away with is just a way to slow down the process.”

Not all conversations are worth engaging, she points out. But the ones that are can be more productive when both parties come in speaking from their personal experiences while at the same time acknowledging other people’s.

“I encourage folks to share their own stories without passing judgement on other people’s stories,” Cullen said.

The pursuit of more inclusive communities is especially important for the medical sector, she said. As communities including Mankato grow more diverse, so too do the patient populations for health care providers.

Cullen, a diversity speaker and trainer for the last 30 years, said these trends make talks like hers increasingly sought after by the medical sector. 

Before the free talk Thursday evening, Cullen will hold a presentation with Mayo Clinic Health System staff. Dr. Jacqueline Corona, regional chair of Mayo Clinic Health System’s Diversity and Inclusion Council, said promoting inclusivity has been a strong focus at Mayo Clinic Health System in recent years.

She expects more speaking engagements like Cullen’s to come to Mankato in the future.

“The goal is to create events like this throughout the year that helps get people together to talk about the issues,” she said.

Follow Brian Arola @BrianArolaMFP.

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