What do we do about our older friend with bad hygiene? It isn’t a matter of money, she just doesn’t seem to know that she has chronic bad breath and bad body odor. When we go out for lunch we practically fight over who does not have to sit next to her. Her clothing also needs cleaning. Is there something we can do to help our dear friend improve her hygiene?
–M.N., Cleveland, OH
It is time for the alienating hygiene talk. You had it with friends in high school who refused to wear deodorant or shower. Next time you all get together talk about how to tell a hypothetical someone that they have bad body odor.
Be forewarned that she may like the way she smells. Her alienating scent might comfort her — for some mysterious reason — if she’s insecure, on edge, or depressed about her age, health or emotional stability. So talking about bad body odor in vague terms may not lead to self-awareness, unless of course she guesses that you’re all talking about her.
If that doesn’t work be more direct. Be honest. Take her aside in private and say, “Please, don’t shoot the messenger because I care about you or I wouldn’t be telling you this. May I suggest that you find a new dry cleaner and use a stronger clothing detergent, and talk to your doctor about your health and emotional stability.
It might be that meeting with a nutritionist could cure the problem, if you’re deficient in certain minerals and vitamins. Because I care about you I want you to be aware that your body odor and chronic bad breath are off the grid offensive.”
On the other hand, there are those who believe that we do too much to disguise our own body odors.
Remember that because our own smells are processed unconsciously, we usually aren’t aware of the many ways our body and breath odors affect our social lives.
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Accepting A Compliment