Trauma-informed coaching, and diversity, equity & inclusion with Michelle Jalali - Pt. 1

Trauma-informed coaching, and diversity, equity & inclusion with Michelle Jalali

business coaching trauma


Welcome back to this week's episode!

I am so excited because today, I have a very special guest named Michelle. I am so pumped because we're going to be diving into all things around why identity matters when running a business, breaking generational curses and creating generational blessings, going beyond just posting on social media when it comes to diversity, inclusion and equity, what being trauma informed really means and so much more.

I met Michelle through the certification program that I've been a part of for the past six months and I have had the pleasure of actually receiving Michelle's support. I just knew immediately upon meeting her that I was going to have her on the show because I feel like you are going to benefit so much from her wisdom and from all the amazing things that she's going to be sharing today.


Trauma-informed coaching, and diversity, equity and inclusion with Michelle Jalali
Trauma-informed coaching, and diversity, equity and inclusion with Michelle Jalali
Trauma-informed coaching, and diversity, equity and inclusion with Michelle Jalali


So welcome, Michelle. I'm so excited to have you here!

Hey, girl. I'm so excited to be here with you. I have been so excited about this all week and so I'm hoping that I can live up to the expectation that you just set for me. I'm super pumped to be here!

Rachael: Well, I would love it if you could let everyone know who you are, what you do, and how you ended up on this beautiful journey that you're on.

How Michelle go into working as a trauma informed diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) consultant and coach

Yeah, that's a great question and I have no idea where to start, but I'm going to try for y'all.

My name is Michelle Jalali (She/her). I am really a very multifaceted DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) consultant. I feel like a consultant is like the blander version of what really embodies the work that I do or how I do my work. So I support folks on a variety of levels with DEI implementation in a way that feels authentic to them and in a really informative and educational way.

I work with small business owners and entrepreneurs. I work with higher educational institutions, I work at colleges and universities. I'll go into nonprofit spaces, corporate spaces. So the type of support that I provide really varies. I'll be doing one-on-one conversations and coaching around identity development, then I'll go into another space and have very baseline conversations and curriculum development for corporate spaces or higher educational spaces.

I do all different types of things around education and helping folks understand what DEI even is and why it does matter in someone’s business. Then I added on this additional layer of really becoming a trauma support specialist in my own education certification, because I wanted to be able to support clients, not just in a way that is stemming from education, but really from the human experience.

Michelle: Then I got here on a very interesting journey because I worked in higher education prior to this, and I was working at universities, fraternity and sorority life. I was doing some really great work, but I fell in love with working with my college students who were ready to take it to the next level.

I was like, “Yes, I can do so much with these students!” But I only had the capacity for so much. This became a passion of mine. Then I started supporting, like I mentioned, just higher educational folks and other entrepreneurs and took it from there.

So I'm a big advocate of engaging in difficult conversations. On top of that, I'm very human centric by nature, so if y'all can't tell already, you'll hear it in my personality. I'm very conversational. I love the ability to connect with people. That's how I got to this place. I love what I do, I love meeting people like you and hopefully connecting with folks that are listening in on this too.

Rachael: Yes, Oh, my goodness! Thank you so much for sharing all of that. I absolutely just love you to pieces!

The work that you have facilitated for me has impacted my capacity to facilitate in ways that make me feel so much more confident, centered and secure in what I do now. I'd love for you to explain what the words diversity, inclusion and equity are and how they differ and why they're important because I think that sometimes people get confused. Sometimes people will say the word inclusion, but they don't necessarily know the other words or even if inclusion actually encompasses what they're after.


What diversity, equity and inclusion actually mean, how they differ and why they’re important

When you think about diversity of thought, when you think about diversity, when you put all those pieces together, you come up with this really cool, individualized, but beautiful vision of people. Who they are, why they are the way they are, the identities that they hold, the way that they think, the way that they learn. That is diversity, right?

It's recognizing the kind of individual pieces of folks, of communities, but still being able to identify and love them for that.

When you take it to an inclusive level, it's taking it and saying, I recognize who you are, I see who you are. I see those pieces of you and I want to make sure that this is a space for you.

Michelle: I want to make sure that when you walk into a space like this, you feel safe, you feel heard, you feel valued. You're providing an idea of bringing us in the same space, both physically and emotionally, and being able to elevate that experience.

Equity is a lot about action. It's about taking it a step further and saying, “This is not a them versus us. These folks over here might need a little bit of additional support or different support.”

We even talk about equity pricing for entrepreneurs. How can we make sure that we are being intentional about meeting them? When you think about that process of seeing someone for who they are, providing this space, and then making sure they're successful, making sure they're seen, and making sure they're safe, that breaks down the terms of DEI in a way that I think feels good to people vs. the way that terms actually show up in the dictionary.


Rachael: Thank you so much for breaking all of that down! I know initially, probably back last September, I was confused as to how I actually implement them into steps to create spaces for folks of all different walks of life?

I think it's very, very beneficial for people to actually start to understand what these terms actually mean and how they can actually implement them in their lives and in their business. I'm curious for you to kind of speak on why identity matters in running a business because I think that this is something that not enough people talk about or even recognize.


Why identity matters in running your business

It's such a deep, loaded question when it comes to identity, right? It's ever changing. It's ever evolving. We are continuously, as individuals, always learning about ourselves. We're constantly evolving based on who we are, our lived experiences, the cultures that we grew up around, the cultures that we are now learning about. Then you take it to the level of learning and growing and community.

Now, when we talk about identity as being a central part of running a business, I always believe that it has to be. Our brand is often what we say our values are, but when you think about your identity, there is nothing that's debatable there. When you show up authentically as who you are, your clients know what they're investing in. They know who they're investing in. They know that when they speak to you, you are going to be culturally competent enough to look at them and say, “Tell me about yourself, no, really tell me about yourself!”

I'm not talking about race or age, I'm talking about you as a whole person that makes you YOU, and what makes your identity so central to the work you do, to where you want to be, to where you want your business to be, to how you show up in your family, to how you show up in your relationships. As coaches, we do this often, right? We say, “Why are you who you are? Let's start there. Let's talk about that.”

So, identity has to be central for authenticity, for accountability, for the ability to connect and build community as well.

Michelle: It's the idea that, if I wanted to pretend that when I walk into a space that people don't see me, don't have their biases, don't have their visions of who I am going to be, what I'm going to sound like, how I'm going to act, how I'm going to dress, then I would not even be able to do my job properly.

Instead, when I walk into a space, I'm very vocal and I'm very aware of how folks may perceive me and I want them to connect with me. So, any single time that I see someone not being true to themselves, I can argue that identity, that self identity, as was the identity of their clients, is not a central value to them. This happens because you get caught up in all the things of our life. But when we tune back into those pieces of who we are, what makes us us, It's really easy to stay on track with elevating the values of our business, staying true to what we want.

It's the most important piece, in my opinion, because everything else trickles from that! abundance, happiness, community, love!

Rachael: That's so beautiful and it's so true. I know even from a personal level, the more that I've allowed myself to receive support and around who I am as an individual, it's only made a bigger impact on the capacity I have as a leader to serve, to hold space with and for my clients. If I can't see myself and I don't learn how to see myself and hold myself, it makes it really challenging for me to do that for others.


Michelle: You put it perfectly.

Rachael: It's so beautiful the way you said everything, I'm like, “Oh, yes, this is just amazing.”

Michelle: That's so true. It's not to say that all of us in any way are perfect human beings, but other than that, I really do believe that I have flaws. I believe that I have things I need to work on. I believe that when I walk into certain phases, I still have significant insecurities. My imposter syndrome acts up. I believe I get defensive around certain groups. These are things that make us human. That's really a part of all of this. Me acknowledging who I am, acknowledging my lived experiences. Me saying like, 

“Hey, I may not be able to connect with every single one of my clients because we have exactly the same lived experiences, but I'm going to find a way to make sure that they know who I am and that I've learned enough about them so that I can support them authentically.”

When we do that, we are not only channeling identity as a priority in our business or making it something that is the standard and other folks will feed off of that in our leadership. 

Rachael: Yes. Oh, my gosh. I've literally got goosebumps because this is so powerful. This really speaks into the conversation around why implementing diversity, inclusion and equity is how it's more than just a social media post, because I think we've all seen it over and over, especially this past year and a half, that there's a lot of pressure to speak on certain things, to show up in certain ways, to be a certain way.

At what point is it authentic and at what point is it kind of just becoming this thing. I'd love for you to speak into that a little bit more because I think a lot of people are still navigating how to not only implement DEI into their business and as a person just in general, but also learning how to actually be grounded in your process as a unique person Resharing something just because someone else told you so isn't necessarily authentic and it can be performative.


Authentically incorporating DEI into your business without being performative

One of the things that's so interesting about this world of technology that we live in, especially the "online business owners", is that we have this consistent and constant pressure to show up, because if we don't say something, we're screwing up. If we say the wrong thing, we're screwing up. As a DEI consultant and someone who's very in tune with social justice, I'm here to tell you that authenticity in the way that you show up, is more important than any tweet, any post, any share that you could do just to do it.

Awareness is one thing, but doing it to be performative is another.

This is not to attack anyone in this space, but to make you really feel secure and grounded to your point in your decision making, I 100% believe that a human-centric, taking care of your clients first approach, is much more important than any post that you could make.

So, what does that mean if I am working with a set of clients, and I know that there's something that is happening in the world that is directly affecting some of them or indirectly affecting some of them because of partners, because of loved ones, because of just mental health. My priority is going to be reaching out to them. My priority is going to be having a conversation with them and letting them know that I'm there, letting them know that I see them, letting them know that I'm here to hold space for and with them should they need it.

Michelle: Who can I connect them with? Who can I outsource? Who can I bring into this space to provide them with the energy that they need to feel a sense of security, when the world around them is not providing them with that.

That is the priority around this idea of performative vs. authenticity. If I want to post something because I think it's a dope resource, I'm going to post it. I'm going to repost it, I'm going to share it, whatever it might be, because I think that's important knowledge to share! But if I'm going to post a black box on my Instagram for a blackout and never elevate the voices of my black peers, never support a black business, never check on my black clients, then what the hell is the point of posting the Black Square?

I think that a lot of the time it is about not only checking ourselves, but really grounding ourselves into the safety of knowing we do this work because we love people. We do this work because we want to elevate their experiences and let them know that there is room for growth, there's room for a journey.

Michelle: It's about taking a step back and prioritizing your clients first, your individual relationships first. It is about posting saying “I see you. I love you. I am sorry that I may not know exactly what to say, but I need you to know that as I'm doing my own self processing, unlearning, thinking about who I am, the identities I hold, and I value you.”

Those moments matter, way more than any post.

Now, I'm going to take it a step further. A lot of the time, we all hold a sense of ignorance around what's really happening. We'll get a little notification on our Apple News that will come up. We read the headlines and then that's what we run with. But, taking the time for us to educate ourselves is also important. Engage in deeper conversations with folks that are in the field, folks that understand a little bit more about the issues of the world and how we can support our clients through those folks too.

A lot of the space in how you and I met it was in a support capacity for someone else. I was not directly working with you at first, but it was 100% a "Hey, I want to make sure that I have someone in my community to support you all." When I showed up in that space, as you can tell, it ripples out. That's authenticity by nature. I want to make sure that if I'm not the right person to say this, to address this, that I've got someone on my team who can support in that space, too.

Rachael: Thank you so much for sharing all of that. I think that that's really what it comes down to, the authenticity and the willingness to learn, the willingness to really just look at yourself and say, “Hey, how am I operating in the world right now?” Especially for me, I can only speak for myself as a white woman, I have a very different lived experience than some of my black clients or some of my indigenous clients and so on and so forth. So how can I learn how to hold space with and for them in a way that is outside of just my lens of the world or my map of the world?

Michelle: I just got chills.

Rachael: It's so important. And that even speaks outside of the identity surrounding your race or ethnicity and culture. It also speaks into when you're a coach or facilitator or understanding that each person that you work with or comes into your space holds a different lived experience than you.

And how can you be equipped to hold space and to coach, to facilitate all the things in a way that honors that person and isn't a projection of your own experience? That's something that I think can happen.

Unfortunately, it does happen a lot, particularly in the coaching industry, because it is an unregulated industry, which is good and has a shadow side, simultaneously. I know that as somebody who for me, as a person, I've prioritized getting certifications and training because I see the value in learning how to actually facilitate transformation that goes outside of, “Oh, this is my opinion and my advice for you.” And that can be tricky, because I know there's a big conversation in this industry around certifications being necessary and I do think that there is something to be said about investing and putting yourself in spaces that hold you to a higher standard.


Being accountable to your standards, and taking steps to educate yourself further

That accountability piece is everything and this is so funny because I come from a higher educational lens. I've told plenty of my students, if this is not where you want to be, don't be here. I remember getting in trouble at one point, being told that I’m  supposed to retain them. But I knew there were other opportunities right there, especially around things that maybe my students wanted to do.

So when that transfers into this space, I definitely believe that furthering your "education", your scope, your community, your level of accountability and standard is so important for understanding how to properly support. This is where I talk about a diverse group of clients. You can't get to the place of , “I create inclusive spaces." If you don't know or understand what diversity means for your clients, you don't understand their lived experience.

So, to your point around putting yourself and investing in spaces that hold you to a higher standard, that give you additional perspectives, that teach you. "Hey, let's talk about how to facilitate in a way that feels good to you.” A lot of the time when we are put in places where we facilitate based upon our perspective and our advice, we end up causing more harm. When I say that I come from a trauma informed, trauma sensitive lens that is doing the complete opposite, and it's not about advice about my opinion, it's not even about my perspective.

It's about you, your lived experiences, your identity, the way you show up in the world, the way that the world sees you, the way that you see the world, where you want to be, and how I can help you get there, how I can help educate you in a way that feels good.

It’s about how I can help you feel empowered and whole and seen.


Michelle: Someone may not love the word trauma because trauma may be an association of something they're trying to work past. How can we embody this idea of being human centric and looking at an individual as this whole beautiful soul versus saying, "Yeah, this is one of my clients, I'm in contact with them for six months. I'm trying to get them from point A to point B. It's going to be great." And more so saying, "Let's talk about you." "How was your day and why was your day like that?" "Let's talk about your year. Why was your year looking like that?" "Talk about your business. What do you really, really want for your business? What do you want to feel when you wake up every day and before you go to bed?"

Some of this sounds a little cheesy and I'm very well aware of that, but a lot of it is very much this idea of being human centric by nature. When you're human centric by nature, you have this undertone of healing versus sitting in your shit. There's room for sitting in your shit sometimes because we all got to do that in order to grow. But a lot of it is about wanting to make sure that you feel healed and seen in this process. 

Rachael: That all resonates so deeply. It really just speaks into how all of this is just so crucial, because like you said, the unfortunate thing is when an individual doesn't have the knowledge or the skills or hasn't been trained in how to actually elicit and facilitate a safe, brave space for transformation, sometimes more harm than good does get caused because the individual who holds a different identity on the other side isn't feeling seen.

I've definitely been there in my own journey and I've worked with amazing people and I've had even situations where I've needed support around something that was deeper than just, "OK, well say this affirmation and be on your merry way", And that person, unfortunately, didn't hold the skillset to be able to take me there. I was left feeling stuck and like "Well, where do I go?"

This is where we also get to as leaders, knowing where you can not only hold the space or hold space with and for people, but also if something is outside of your scope, knowing where you can then help the client go somewhere where they could get the support they need. What happens is when we're not equipped, whether that be within our own capacity to facilitate within different modalities and skill sets, and on top of that, we haven't learned or taken the time to know where we can send people if they are experiencing something that is outside of our scope, it does cause harm.

It leads into this question around being confident in and holding space for and with your clients, because there is a difference there. That confidence piece also comes through when it comes to, "Hey, I actually don't have the answer." And that's OK.



Recognizing when you might not be the right person to help with an experience of your client, and how to safely communicate that

That's deep. It's so deep because we like to have it all together. Because our brand counts on it, because the clients count on it, and anyone who's listening knows this pressure of, “I got to get it right. I want to get it right. And I don't want to be responsible for causing additional harm either.”

When you have an individual who you may not be the right person. You might not have the perfect response. You may not know the next steps. It's so crucial, but also so beautiful for someone to be able to say to your point, “Oh, my gosh, I love you so much. Thank you so much for trusting me with this. If I have your permission, I really have someone awesome that I think could continue this conversation with you in a way that would make you feel so good.”

Michelle: It's also about people surrounding you who are! We're in this together. We're changing the industry. We're leaders in this space, and when we do this, we're showing up vulnerable. We're showing up authentic. We're showing up as leaders. We're showing up centering identity and generations and an understanding lived experience.

We're showing up fully and authentically, and we're doing the damn thing. And that means that we might mess up. Sometimes that means that we might have to ask hard questions. And that means we may not be perfect all the time, but we're still showing up. I think when you remind yourself of that, not only are you essentially centering the importance of trauma sensitivity, but you are also channeling this idea of identity based coaching, identity support coaching.

This idea that consistency around elevating lived experiences is important to you is a value of yours. And so that's beautiful in itself.


If you're interested in learning from or working with Michelle or Rachael, follow the links below:


Connect With Michelle:


The Right Response


Good Trouble Newsletter


Connect With Rachael:


Potent & Prosperous

The Sacred Self Sanctuary 

1:1 Coaching Application

60 Min Hypnotherapy Session

90 Min Breakthrough Session

The Embodied Leadership Newsletter

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