By Sandye Linnetz

Okay, here’s a topic that really STINKS! Telling someone that they have nasty body odor – or bad breath – can be unbelievably uncomfortable, right? You want to tell them but, ooooh… how do you do that without being a real jerk? We know that WE would want to know (if it was us)… and yet, we’d be so embarrassed to hear it. So, What Do You Say? What Do You Do? when someone near you (and possibly dear to you) smells bad?

Go with the thought that you’d want to know about it, if it was you. I like to say that I’m that friend who will tell you if you have spinach on your teeth, and I cultivate friendships with like-minded folks. Close friend or not, being direct and honest works!  Now, when I say direct and honest, it doesn’t have to live and in-person. If you want an easy out, consider a bottle of mouthwash and a short “you need this” note left on the doorstep. But, in any case, don’t do the hint drop – it doesn’t work! Tell it like it is.

You can even tell the ‘offensive’ one that you’re concerned about a possible medical issue like a mouth infection or blocked sweat glands. I wouldn’t go with the Acute Hygienic Arrest… the humor might go unnoticed. And, remember it’s more about ‘how’ you say it that the exact words you choose. Be nice. Tell the BO Babe that because she’s always so neat and clean you know it’s not a hygiene issue and that’s why you’re so concerned. Mention to him that smelling good is a chick magnet and you’ve got his back. Soften the blow with a compliment.

But wait, there’s more… real life examples from Sandyeland:

Relative with bad breath: “Hey, I’m worried about you. Your mouth doesn’t smell ‘minty fresh’… could you have a gum disease or something’? That actually started a very honest conversation about offensive smells!

Close friend with an underarm issue: “Okay, who smells like dead rats? Is that me or you? (After sniffing at each other, she went to shower).

Employee with bad body odor (and everyone was complaining) – Knowing that others were complaining would have been waaay to embarrassing for her, so I called her into my office and said that I had a ‘tough one’ to discuss with her – tough for both of us! After assuring her that her job was not in jeopardy (and telling her two or three things she was doing really well), I simply said: “You’re undoubtedly not aware of it, but I’ve noticed an unpleasant odor when I get close to you. I brought in some stuff that I think might help.” In a brown bag I had soap, deodorant and cologne, which I explained would be kept in the bathroom at work… for anyone at anytime. I neither required nor expected her to respond other than with a quiet “thanks” – which she did.

And my favorite (for it’s straightforward – No holds barred honesty): “You want to get into my bed? Go wash your feet. They stink!”

You just say, (Deep breath for courage and jump right in.) “Look,” (if the person is a visual communicator*) or “Listen, (for the auditory*) I’m going to tell you something that I would want you to tell me. It might not be easy to hear and it’s certainly tough to say… Your {fill in the blank} doesn’t smell good. Maybe it has to do with a {insert possible medical condition here}. I’m no doctor (unless, of course, you actually are a doctor, in which case you shouldn’t say this), but you might want to check it out with yours.” Yes, they may be embarrassed, but not permanently. You’ll get through it and they’ll get over it.

Note: Real friends report bad breath, flies that are open, chin hairs, boogers, and anything else** that might be humiliating on a first date or when meeting the president for the first time!

*More on listening styles in another blog…

** if you’re over 50, add bra straps and slips showing