How to give care and connect with others, with Scott Sallée
tw: suicidal ideation
Scott Sallée is social impact and sustainability lead at Dentsu and is one of the leading voices in LGBTQ+ advocacy in the UK. Scott has won various accolades in the DE&I space, all very well-deserved.
This chat is wonderfully nurturing thanks to Scott’s outlook on caregiving and boundaries. Scott also has a unique take on setting contracts within friendships, as well as working relationships, in order to better understand how other people function as well as to get your own needs met.
Louise Scodie – NABS 00:01
Scott Sallée is social impact and sustainability lead at Dentsu and is one of the leading voices in LGBTQ+ advocacy in the UK. Scott’s been recognised as a top 10 Diversity hero at the British LGBTQ+ Awards as a game changing talent featured in Attitude magazine and highly commended on the IPI list for inspirational inclusivity leadership. Scott is a board member of the Ivy’s talent Council, and an ambassador for NABS. A neurodivergent advocate for neurodiversity, Scott is passionate about intersectionality, psychological safety and sustainability. Scott also hails from Hawaii, which is one of my favourite facts about them. Aloha Scott, did I say that right? Aloha.
Scott Sallée 00:45
Aloha is correct. Yes.
Louise Scodie – NABS 00:47
I am so pleased. Aloha. It’s wonderful to have you on the podcast, especially because we have known each other for a very long time. And it’s really great to bring one of our rich conversations, which we always ended up having, which, when we see each other, we’ll have that now and be able to share some of your brilliant insights with more people. So this is really exciting. And thank you for coming on the podcast. How you doing this week?
Scott Sallée 01:15
Big question. Yeah, summer is kind of where I come into my best self in many ways. I think I’m powered by the sunshine. So that’s, that’s giving me a lot of energy.
Louise Scodie – NABS 01:32
That’s very Hawaiian of you. Now, what does mental wellness look like to you? Can you also achieve mental wellness in winter?
Scott Sallée 01:53
We have to, we cannot be reliant or dependent on external things, whether that’s weather or times of the year. But yeah, mental wellness looks like to me a thoroughly stocked toolkit of healthy coping mechanisms. Things like breathwork, which has been transformational in my life. Things like mindful movement, physical activity. But indeed, like wholesome people, trusted allies, community boundaries, and things like quietude. So amidst all the busyness, all the responsibilities is, is coming back and carving out the time to get quiet enough with oneself to really understand how am I feeling outside of all the things that can maybe convince us that we feel otherwise or numb ourselves, so we don’t need to feel it. So yeah, mental wellness. That’s, that’s at least my perspective in this current chapter. But I am open to evolving that and continuing.
Louise Scodie – NABS 02:58
That very much sounds like an active practice for you, where there are things that you do, and you have to build in and make sure you are actively doing in order to support yourself.
Scott Sallée 03:08
Correct. And actually, there’s part of me that doesn’t always want to see healing as a constant practice. I think it’s something that I would like to get to a point of maybe a little bit, not so much maintenance. But I think, yeah, having faced some challenges, and the resulting impacts of those, it’s intelligent, beautiful point where that’s what helps me be my best now or some days, that’s what helps me just show up, not as my best, but just show up. And so I think there’s also an element of honesty of having more conscious conversations with people, whether that’s stakeholders at work, whether it’s family, whether it’s friends and be like, This is what’s moving through me right now. This is this is what I have to offer. And honest with myself as well. And even things like saying no to some things, and maybe you know, I didn’t want to go to or do what participate in. But having to be honest with you, there with the right people, there’s always going to be another opportunity. But right now, it might just not be the right moment for me or to go and expend that energy.
Louise Scodie – NABS 04:20
There’s quite a few things that I want to pick up on inevitably. Firstly, you describe breathwork as transformational. Yes. Now for anyone listening to this, who thinks this sounds like a really big task that could take over your day? My impression is that even four or five minutes during the day of deep breathing is going to help you. Can you talk to me about your approach and confirm whether it’s possible to enjoy a quickie?
Scott Sallée 04:51
You can absolutely quickie it in the sense that I think it’s something that you can do with regularity doesn’t have to be long extreme. I think this is what people are looking to is, can that weave its way can you sort of habit stack it. So I tell people like, right, if you’re making a cup of coffee, if you’re making a mug of tea, rather than scrolling on your phone, can you do a little bit of breathing activity right then and that can be as simple as like slowing down your breath. So whenever I’m like facilitating practices for other people, I say like think low, slow and deep. So the breath is coming low into the lower abdomen, you’re slowing it down in, you’re slowing it down, out, and it sits deep. So there’s like, big expansion and contraction of the body. And even that, like sometimes before I go into a presentation, I did it just before this podcast, because I was like, ah, it’s a little bit of a reset button throughout the day, and I think it’s a way of taking our power back, because there’s so many things that pull on our nervous system, whether that’s trauma in the past, whether that’s, you know, a challenging person that you’re dealing with in the present, whether that’s, you know, your own intrusive thoughts, whether that you anything, anything that goes wrong, it’s a way of taking your power back and saying, I’m going to decide how my nervous system is operating. And the breath is our most efficient way of actually coming back to our bodies coming back to ourselves. And yeah, like I said, I’ve tried yoga, I’ve tried mindfulness, they’re all wonderful. But for me, breathwork. And for many of the people I speak with, that’s been really the breakthrough. So that’s why I’m quite an advocate for it.
Louise Scodie – NABS 06:38
This is a really great example of something that is quick, that is free, that you have at your disposal. And that doesn’t need to be as complicated as it sounds, I love the idea of doing some deep breathing, while you’re making a cup of tea, and habit stacking it, that’s something I’m going to try after this.
Scott Sallée 06:57
There’s a term called email out via where some people get a stressful email, and they and they hold their breath, and just the amount of tension that you start to store in your body. And like actually, this is something that I realised when starting to peel the layers back and heal from some complex trauma was I didn’t realise how tense I was all the time. And I think even if you do, if you breathe, you sort of you’re inviting more fluidity, you’re inviting more expansion into your body. And as a result, you start to let everything else starts to settle as well. Or maybe emotions rise to the surface that you can welcome in a new way. Anyway, this could be a breathwork-only podcast,
Louise Scodie – NABS 07:34
I’m feeling that we’re going to end up with a breathwork offshoot podcast of this, which I’m going to be very happy about. So try that. And there’s also something around boundaries, which is possibly my favourite subject, and something we come back to, again and again on the podcast. And the next thing I want to ask you is, it’s about doing all of the activism work that you do. And your work has a big emotional and mental load and responsibility with it. And in your own words, you have a beautifully neurodivergent brain, and you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community. So you have all of these different hats and responsibilities and identities. How do you look after yourself while you’re engaging in all of this work? And are boundaries are a really key part of that?
Scott Sallée 08:27
Yeah, I mean, I think one of the reasons I wanted to come and speak about this is like NABS, and I have the same approach to caring for people. And we give without the expectation of receiving, and that can be a challenging place, if you’re not equally being supported by others. I think that’s why I’ve always been an advocate of NABS, and ensuring that we’re also supporting which means, you know, funding, it’s vital services. But like, NABS has always been there for all of us. And for me, when I was struggling with anxiety when I was struggling with depression, when I was struggling with suicide, loss of direction.
And when COVID started and was really impacting my community, my friends, my industry, I saw the need was so great. It was you know, it was it was such a peak point that I just I poured, they talked about pouring from the cup, I was just, I was just pouring everywhere, and it was a really risky place to be in. And so I, I’ve really started to be more conscious about coming back to like, not everything has to scale. I can’t support everyone. Now, I realise that like, if you’ve helped one person, you’ve done enough, you’ve done incredible work. I really believe that if we all adopt a mindset of caring about one person every day, and sometimes that person is you. Yeah, that will create the collective healing that we need. But even when you’re talking about energy uses, I think also like being in community makes activism and advocacy feel less alone and less tiring. Because it reminds you that you’re not alone in this and there are other people doing incredible work as well that you can continue to learn from. So it’s, yeah, it’s, it’s essential. And I think even on the most challenging days, I would choose it 1000 times over.
Louise Scodie – NABS 10:28
Because that’s just getting so much from it as well.
Scott Sallée 10:30
Correct. So it is it is selfless and maybe a bit selfish, because it gives me so much choice.
Louise Scodie – NABS 10:37
That theme of power of community is another theme that comes through really strongly in the conversations that we have both on this podcast and also with friends, allies, people that come to us now to services. And it’s something that we’re really drilling down on, now that NABS because we know, from so much research, that being part of a community really helps to support your mental wellness, well, connecting you to other people and allowing other great work to take place. Let’s get back to those boundaries. So you mentioned before, sometimes you have to say people, no, it’s not, it’s not going to happen today, you have to say no to things. And I imagine that can be quite tough when you are getting so much from the causes that you’re joining in with, or you care so much about the people that you’re helping. So how do you go about communicating those boundaries in a way that still supports how you’re feeling and also can maintain the relationship you’ve got with whoever it is that you’re communicating that boundary to?
Scott Sallée 11:34
I’ve had a bit of a restructure in my ways of working conversations. And that’s with I, even my friends, like, I’m weird, but sometimes I’ll even have like a ways of working for friendship. Because, you know, sometimes you just you tend to tend to blunder into friendships, you meet someone who’s cool, and then you just, you just crack on and you let it evolve as it does, but being really upfront about your energy and how you actually need to be treated, how you like to be spoken to, how you like to give and receive any sort of communication or feedback, like all of that is so so valuable.
But again, that takes the work of actually knowing yourself well enough to be able to articulate it and communicate to other people. So you can’t just jump in and say, oh, yeah, I like texts over thought, like, that’s, that’s not the level I’m talking about, like, okay, so like, please, when you say this, like I would really appreciate if and you know, even just going into that, that level of I’ve exchanged with your friends, but in a work sense, I’ve now made wellbeing as one of the agenda points of the ways of working conversation. So I found that dramatically changes the way that we engage with one another because it’s not a nice to have, that is how we show up for each other, as you know, as we both deserve to. And I try and promote that I sowed the seeds, so to speak, of that across the organisation.
Louise Scodie – NABS 13:07
So what does that actually look like is that say, I want you to take part in a project. So I email you with the task, and I email you with the deadline is that then you saying? Well, I can do that, but then my wellbeing might suffer if I have to hit that deadline. So how about I do it for you. But here’s another deadline? Is that the kind of thing?
Scott Sallée 13:27
That’s more of a like a short-term thing. Usually I would structure these conversations not with every single person I interact with but if I know that we’re going to go on a bit of a journey together over a project lifecycle, it’s like that should be part of the initial setup and scoping. So that we both have an expectation and the respect and also it’s part of the getting to know each other phase beyond the okay well I’m so and so you know these are my pronouns if you know if people’s Do you share that? Um, and things like I don’t know you have a cat dog like, great that’s all interesting. But talk to me about you, talk to me about like, why you show up for work, what matters to you? That can seem a little bit confusing initially but I think if I have enough influenced the room that’s the kind of conversations we want to have, is like what’s the why behind this, what how is this leading us collectively towards you know, our goals you know, our ichigi, our purpose, and how can we collectively support one another to feel good through that process? And then creating things like feedback opportunities to move through and not you know, not feedback isn’t like you did great or you know, clapping emoji on teams are really like that, that positive reinforcement that allows us to come back with constructive criticism or, yeah, things that are more developmental without being perceived negatively.
Louise Scodie – NABS 14:53
There’s a lot of trust involved in that and a lot of relationship building,
Scott Sallée 14:56
Psychological safety, relationship building, but those are the environments that I want to work in. So I, you know, it doesn’t always happen 100% of the time. But I always find that it’s worth pushing. And it also gives me a bit of a diagnostic on the kinds of other leaders that I want to work with and for.
Louise Scodie – NABS 15:17
I want to reflect on something that you said before, when you openly shared that you’ve been through trauma, and that suicidal thoughts have been part of that trauma in history. And I just wanted to acknowledge that because we skipped into other conversational directions. So just wanted to acknowledge that the fact that you had shared that, and to thank you for sharing that, because that’s a really brave thing to do. And I think quite helpful for people who might be going through a tough time to show that actually, you can be in a dark place, but there is help out there. And ultimately, you can get to a place where you are now where you’re leading from the front, and helping other people to feel get.
Scott Sallée 16:03
And thank you, I think I’ve now become more and more accustomed to sharing my story. There’s definitely a bit of a lurch of oh my gosh, like, even so, you know, even with practice, but my, my inner dialogue at that moment is I don’t know how many people I may be able to help by sharing. And so it’s it’s the do it, yeah, just you know, or even do it for that self of me that was for too long, not willing or not comfortable reaching out for help. Because it’s true when you’re when you’re in those dark places, you just don’t believe that it could get better. And so that’s why I don’t I don’t think the you know, some of the models we see like it gets better or things like that. It’s true, but it’s so challenging to feel, see, imagine the truth in that. So any time I can be there to provide support for someone were a kind word, I think that there’s a sense of, we don’t know, and this is not my own words, but it’s something that I’ve I’ve internalised is we don’t know what people are going through, which is why we need to consistently choose kindness. Because we could influence someone’s day and their life in a very powerful way for the better or otherwise, by an interaction that we have from we can be we could be their ray of sunshine, or we could be something that makes their day even more difficult.
Louise Scodie – NABS 17:39
Even on the smallest levels, even the way that you say hello to someone. And maybe they’re feeling particularly unseen that day, and you say hello to them with a smile on your face, you could completely transform their morning, you just don’t know, do you? I’m really interested in something that you wrote in the course of my Scott research about non-binary people in Hawaii. So that’s where you come from. And these people being honoured as caregivers, and community leaders, which I thought was really lovely. Why do you think this is? And do you think that this legacy is why you’ve stepped into so much advocacy work?
Scott Sallée 18:14
Potentially, I mean, I think the queerness is seeing the world in a different way. And neuro divergence is experiencing the world in a different way. You know, through our senses, through our brains. And so like, the more we create psychologically safe environments, our we know where the allyship is robust and vulnerability is, is welcome, celebrated, you know, when we have integrity, integrity, to speak with each other in an honest way, as opposed to my mask, meeting your mask. And like, those can all sound as nice to haves.
But I think like in a competitive talent environment, our HR team say the most frequent questions from high performers after salary and benefits is around diversity, belonging, wellbeing, sustainability. So like, if we are trying to make better businesses attract and retain high performers, we gotta get really serious about culture, inclusion, purpose, things like that. But it’s true that like queer and neurodivergent people, there’s also an overlap between those communities.
I was reading a study cited by the University of Cambridge and like, I actually didn’t know the amount but approximately eight times more likely. Wow. Okay. And then you can break that down into different you know, so whether that’s autism or ADHD, whether the person identifies as asexual, or but all maybe we can link the research afterwards. Yeah, that would be great around gender variance as well. So yeah, people with ADHD ARE 6.64 times more likely to express gender variance, whether that’s, you know, questioning gender identity or gender dysmorphia. I really think it’s because actually, this is not my own theory. The prominent one is that neurodivergent people are less aware of or inclined to follow social societal. norms.
Louise Scodie – NABS 20:03
That makes a lot of sense, like, might as well be myself because I have no idea that that might be a problem for some other people.
Scott Sallée 20:09
Yeah. And you know that maybe there’s there’s less desire to conform to society’s expectations. But I think a lot of LGBTQ plus people do this advocacy work, because they’re passionate about their community. But I was reading a story of a colleague at Dentsu, who is in Italy. And as you may know, the laws change there that no longer identify or acknowledge or recognise, for example, homosexual parents, right. So he woke up, and he was no longer a father of his child. And he says, I never planned on being an activist. I just wanted to be a dad.
So you know, some, you know, and when we think of our trans colleagues, and siblings, and families and loved ones who are, you know, are kind of fighting for their lives out there, you know, they didn’t necessarily want to be an activist. They just want to live as themselves, they just want to live, you know, hate crime is up over 156% of UK, 88% of trans youth are experiencing suicidal ideation. So, it is a question of, not just human rights, but just the, you know, the right to live. live healthily.
But, you know, from my perspective, I always try and use whatever privilege I have to enter spaces to advocate for people who might not have been invited there. And then balance that with stepping out of the spotlight and passing the mic and being like, okay, how can I use the, you know, the power of a plus one to get someone else in this space? Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s bridging that. And I think maybe that’s what queer neurodivergent people are able to do in our more structured world as it’s been to date, is be like, nah, you’re you’re not, we’re not gonna, we’re not going to do that. But we see a different way we see a better way, we see a way this more fluid that’s, you know, more beautiful, more inclusive. And we’re gonna get there.
Louise Scodie – NABS 22:23
While you’re doing all of this support work, you also need support. So what can everyone do to better support LGBTQ+ individuals in these roles as caregivers and activists?
Scott Sallée 22:38
I think that it’s important to work on allyship, an active allyship, meaning that it’s a verb, not something that you post as a hashtag, and be like, woohoo, done. Yeah, but things like, you know, when is the last time you know, if you’re not a part of these communities, and the same applies to any other underrepresented community, you know, when’s the last time that you made a content decision of looking at a book or a podcast or a series that centres on their lived experiences, you know, someone that’s maybe not in your friends group, some of that doesn’t think or acot or speak like you that can be social class, that can be any anything, race, ethnicity, you know, the same approach applies.
And learn a bit more about not just the challenges that they’re facing, but the joy, I think, let’s connect around our shared love. As well as shared challenges. We have to be honest with things like systemic inequalities, and not deny those, but also, I think the best way to connect with someone that maybe feels like they’re different to you, is look for that commonality. We all want to be seen, recognised, valued love, we all want, you know, a warm, nourishing meal, hugs.
So I think it’s looking at the things that connect us, rather than focusing too much on oh, I don’t know, why is their hair a certain way? Why do they dress a certain way? Well, because that’s, you know, that’s what helps them feel like themselves. And doesn’t every human deserve that in this limited, beautiful, brief experience, we’re all sharing together.
Louise Scodie – NABS 24:19
It’s such a good point. And it’s not something that you hear often enough. The struggles are so there, and there’s so much work to do, and there’s so many challenges. But on the flip side of that, there is that notion of what binds us and what connects us when we find those good times together as well. We’re thinking about advertising, marketing and media as an industry. There’s clearly a reason why you’ve chosen to work in it and you haven’t chosen to work in I don’t know, engineering, or finance, like, maybe you think advertising is going to be more fun. Maybe you’re more out for a laugh. I mean, that could be any number of reasons why you’re looking for a certain kind of working atmosphere. So that might be the first proof point that will actually we all have at least something in common that we can work on here.
Scott Sallée 25:06
And hopefully, it’s our approach to creativity as a way of shaping possibilities that never existed before. So like, what can creativity and innovation do to shape a world where we all thrive? And I think that like, what I witnessed in Atlanta that really lifts me up is things like when we come together, and we go beyond chasing an award or headline, and we really collaborate we, we gather with purpose.
So when adland looks honestly at itself, for example, examines like what is our collective responsibility, collective legacy? Are we happy with the working conditions? Are we happy with our approach to you know, contentious clients, and it’s the client, miss the climate emergency. So things like time to which NABS has been a driving force, you know, the driving force behind or like the pitch positive pledge from the IPA, which looked at creating a better wellbeing experience for teams going through pitches to things like, you know, environmental to add green at Net Zero. Groups like purpose disruptors, of the conscious advertising network, that lifts me up in terms of like, okay, we are, we’re looking seriously at ourselves. We’re doing the inner work. First, we’re doing that first audit. And then we’re coming together across what can be quite competitive lines and being like, what is bigger than all of us? And can we focus on that a bit? That gets me really hopeful. Maybe when I say that, we need to do more. Definitely. That’s that’s the catalyst in me. But there’s a there’s a lot of work going on.
Louise Scodie – NABS 26:52
You mentioned before about how you’ve used NABS services. And also you’re a NABS Ambassador, which we should explain, our ambassadors are people who take the word of NABS out into their companies, tell people what NABS can offer in terms of our services, whether that’s group coaching, or calling our support team or coming to one of our events, and making sure people know that NABS are here for everyone, and that we’re easily accessible. So, I want to thank you for your work as a NABS ambassador, and really acknowledge that, but also ask if you don’t want to talk about it. How NABS has helped you in the past?
Scott Sallée 27:28
Yes. And so my, probably one of the most challenging chapters of my life was when I was made redundant from a position I really, really enjoyed. And now looking back, I recognise that I had attached my identity and my worth to my job, as many of us do, you know, someone says, okay, so hey, who are you? Well, you usually tell people what you do at work.
Louise Scodie – NABS 27:55
The first question. So what do you do?
Scott Sallée 27:59
And that’s why oh, I find networking bit cringe sometimes. I almost want to play a game like alright, tell me but you can’t talk to me about your, you know, your country or your job or anything like that. But I digress. And so it was, it was yeah, it was never services, specifically things like the CBT that NABS providee the time but also the career coaching to be like, well, how can I build myself back up from this and recognise that, oh, my gosh, I have value beyond a title and value beyond, you know, a salary or a job responsibility. And that is something that is so, so critical, I think, for all of us to do that self-examination.
At some point in our career, I was forced into it, and I was already in kind of a challenging position, mentally at the time, so it definitely didn’t help. But I think if people haven’t had that crisis, kind of nudged yourself into, into that self-reflection now is in like, can you decouple the, you know, the beauty, the glory, the you know, the multifaceted nature of who you are, from that title. And I think that will also help us have a different approach to working in a way that you know, yeah, when I when I’m at work, or when someone else’s work, like, go for it, you know, use work to have that self-manifestation of self-actualization. But recognise that you are more than that. And that was the lesson that now I would, I’ve learned looking back but during it was, it was, it was the lowest that I remember feeling. And I’m grateful that I had services like NABS to get me through.
Louise Scodie – NABS 29:40
I’m so glad we were able to help you. And I think it’s important to say that we’ve got a number of classes now, free classes, that people can come on to, you know, half a day, a couple of hours and on a number of different subjects that really will encourage you to reflect upon who you are, what you can do, what your interests are, and also to connect with other people across the industry. as well, you can’t have that time and space that you’re talking about where you can step outside of yourself and your regular day to day and kind of build up your reserves and another way of thinking about yourself, which is a really valuable exercise. It has been a beautiful chat, I only have one question left, I can’t believe we’ve got to the end of it. What was a lesson that you’ve learned about how to support yourself?
Scott Sallée 30:24
So I’m going to quote Trisha Hersey from the Nap Ministry. Great. Check her out if you haven’t, the rest is radical resistance in a world that tries to define us by our productivity.
Louise Scodie – NABS 30:38
Nodding along, like a woman who really needs a rest.
Scott Sallée 30:43
Because that’s it if you know if we carve out and consciously make time for rest, and oh, also another one, there’s seven types of rest. That’s one to take away. She’s a incredible Black scholar from the United States. And then seven types of rest. There’s a great article, and a bit of a TED Talk. Because, you know, there’s emotional rest, there’s physical rest, there’s, I won’t I won’t share them all. But yeah, look into that, because that’s how I think we can bring more of our selves to the occasions where we choose to really show up. Because, you know, when I want to connect with you, I want the fullness of that, not just you know, both of us just kind of stumbling along. And so yeah, maybe we do fewer things, but we do them with our full heart and our full mind and our full presence. I know we’d have a tough time now. But another thing that I’ve been reflecting on his attention and intention, as in like, how can I bring more intention to my attention, that’s how we can really you know, listen to people more completely see people more fully.
Louise Scodie – NABS 31:56
But I absolutely love everything about that mix, it links to everything that Scott has mentioned in the show notes below so that you can find out about different types of rest and then indulge yourself in them. Is that how you get quietude? Then do you consciously think ok, today I’m going to have emotional rest and go and carve out for yourself? Or do you just kind of rest and see what comes up like this under that menu?
It has been such a wonderfully calming and insightful chat. And I’m so glad that you are part of the NABS family and part of our industry. And it’s always a pleasure to chat to you. So thank you so much for giving your time today. You know how much thank you and we wish you lots of luck for the rest of your day. Hope you get in some emotional rest and at least one of the seven naps.