UMass Learning Communities

What if I say the Wrong thing book stacks


Learning Communities Book Groups center around “What if I Say the Wrong Thing? 25 Habits for Culturally Effective People” by Vernā Myers. Throughout the semester, participants meet regularly to learn how to develop culturally effective habits. 
Loosely based around the format of a book club, groups meet to share experiences where they've learned from mistakes and discuss what the book has taught them about communication in a safe environment. Overall, groups tackle questions that most of us have felt paralyzed by, such as "What should I say," "What should I do?" "How do I keep from saying the wrong thing?" "What do I need to know about myself and others to speak inclusively?" 

Learn about Vernā Myers, and watch her talk to learn How to Build Authentic Relationships Across Difference.

The Goal:

Help students, faculty, and staff improve communication across differences and create positive relationships with others in the UMass community.

The Challenge:

We come from diverse backgrounds and experiences that lead to varying levels of comfort and ability to interact thoughtfully across difference. Poor interactions can be very harmful, and worries about being misinterpreted can make interactions stressful. These concerns can keep individuals from engaging with others who don’t share their background or lead to miscommunication when they do.

The Plan:

Book discussion groups will be spaces to help individuals develop skills and unpack challenges to respectful community by enabling participants to practice thoughtful interaction across difference with the book as a guide. What If I Say The Wrong Thing? is a highly rated, short, easily digestible handbook of thought-provoking tips on how to be, and how to help others become, more culturally effective.  Author Vernā Myers explores the pitfalls of engaging across difference and offers solutions in powerful but accessible ways. All participants will receive a free copy of the book, attend small group meetings, and have access to an online forum to interact as they read, sharing resources, as well as posing and answering questions. Groups will start meeting after October 18, and a learning community celebration dinner will be held in December for all participants.

The Outcomes:

At the end of the Learning Community activities, we believe that each participant will experience:

  • Reduced stress when interacting with others

  • Increased cultural awareness and respect for differences

  • Increased sense of belonging

  • Increased leadership capacity