How Do You Tell Someone They Have a Body Odor / Odour / Smell Without Offending Them?
One of the hardest problems to bring up with a friend or work colleague is their body odour problem. No-one wants to be the one to have to tell them, yet at the same time it is nauseating to be around them, and someone is going to have to point it out sooner or later.
Over the years I have encountered this problem a number of times, and it isn't pleasant. One of these occasions I actually employed the woman concerned, and the problem was truly very bad. At the time she had an infected toenail, and was walking about in open toed sandals with a grubby looking bandage on the offending toe. She was employed by me as a petrol station cashier, but this same petrol station had a bakery within it that she had to assist in, and something truly needed to be done.
The odour she was giving off was not just from her toe, but also from her other orifices etc, and it had become so unbearable that when she came into the office to cash up her shift, I could feel myself heaving at the smell.
I have to confess I was a total coward over this problem, especially as I was over 20 years her junior, so I asked another member of senior staff who knew she had previously had this problem, (before I came along), to have a quiet word with her. Even they took an easier way out, as they phoned her adult Son, and asked him to have a chat with her. As this wasn't the first time the problem had been raised, I was surprised she had let her personal hygiene slip again, but she did sort it out after her son spoke with her. Okay, so she failed to turn up at work for a few days, but when she did return she didn't 'offend the senses' any more.
Another occasion I was working for a local Facilities Management Company, and one of the 'out-and-about' employees had a really bad BO problem. It got so bad that whenever he came in the office I would have to leave the reception area to avoid literally 'heaving my guts up' . What was worse was that my fellow receptionist seemed to notice nothing wrong, (I found out why a few weeks later).
Fortunately, I knew I wasn't going mad as the other girls in the office had noticed his 'problem' too, and found it quite funny that I was dashing to the toilets every time he arrived in reception.
It was a few weeks later, once he seemed to have dealt with the problem, I found out why. The girl I worked with on reception had been having an affair with him, (no wonder she couldn't smell the problem), and must have told him about my comments. Okay, I admit, I felt really bad and embarrassed, but mentioning it had indirectly caused him to deal with it. I never could understand what this rather attractive girl saw in him, and I guess I was right as they split up about a year later.
I also found out the reason I may have found the smell particularly offensive was that unknown to me, I was pregnant, which apparently increases your sense of smell dramatically.
So what is the best way to deal with this problem when it confronts you? It really isn't easy to tell the person, and they certainly can't smell it on themselves. Their family no doubt won't notice it as they are around the person a lot of the time, and who truly wants to be the person stuck with the job of breaking the news?
The short answer is that there isn't an 'easy' way to do this without being cruel. The best bet is probably to get the person they are closest to, (although they may not relish the idea), to be the one to have a word with them, be it a work colleague or a family member.
There is no point in buying them nice soaps and bubble baths as presents, (my sister tried that one and the girl gave her back her own gift the following year).
Try to be diplomatic, avoid all the rest of the friends or staff members from knowing today is the day the 'talk' is taking place, and try to be kind and not hurtful when it happens. No doubt the person is going to feel very embarrassed, and deep down will know why they have the problem, especially if they aren't washing regularly, (in which case of course they will know why the accusation has arisen).
What is usually a 'Dead Cert' is that the problem will go away once it has been brought to their attention. Either they will start washing regularly, or they will either leave the circle of friends, or the company, to avoid further embarrassment.