Tactful Tips for Addressing Body Odor: A Guide to Delicately Broaching the Subject with Care

Letting someone know that they smell bad is not the easiest thing to do… at all. Especially if this other person is someone you care for, you don’t want to risk offending them in any way. Though Donkey was able to scream at Shrek, “You definitely need some Tic Tacs or somethin’, ‘cause your breath stinks,” you may opt for something more subtle.

First of all, consider why that person might smell. (For instance, if they just exercised, maybe let it slide.) But body odor can also be caused by underlying conditions, such as diabetes, or medications, or even a mental illness that inhibits self-care. So be careful, and know who you are approaching. If you know none of the above apply, and have observed this person smelling on many occasions, it’s time to dive in. It’s important to know that helping someone fix their body odor will be a good thing for you both, a win-win.

The first thing you want to be sure of is that this conversation is one-on-one. Even if others present agree with you, taking your smelly friend to the side to address the issue lowers the risk of embarrassment and lets them know that you understand the sensitivity at hand. DO NOT make someone’s body odor the topic of group conversation or the butt of a joke. If you do, shame, shame, shame…

When you do get them alone, don’t beat around the bush. The more direct and honest the conversation, the better. Ensure them that you aren’t upset and want to help, but then get right to it. Something along the lines of, “Hey, because I care about our friendship and your relationships with others, I should let you know I’ve noticed your body odor recently. Can we talk about it?”

The more time you spend avoiding the direct topic, the more uneasy you will make the person you wish to help. Close the short conversation by reassuring them that you only bring it up because you care, that you think they’re a great person and deserve the best shot at strong relationships. Practicing directness will also benefit you in all aspects of your life.

Finally, offer to help your friend find some good-smelling solutions to their problem. Tell them about your favorite scented body wash, your go-to antiperspirant, or the Fresh Body deodorant lotion that you swear by. Reminding the person that everyone needs to take steps to keep smelling good and feeling fresh will ensure them that a solution is just around the corner. 

Close your conversation with a promise to always tell the truth and to help them out with this specific body odor problem. Not only will you make them feel ready to tackle their body odor, but you’re also confirming your status as a true friend, even in the stinkiest of times.

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