How to tell a friend he smells

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by modern_muslimah, Dec 25, 2011.

  1. modern_muslimah

    modern_muslimah Well-Known Member

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    Last night, my husband and I were discussing how one of our friends has lately smelled really bad. This is a dear friend who is a nice guy. He's been staying with us because he has been working on an art project at our place of worship. For some reason he isn't showering and he's smelling quite bad. I understand some people don't shower everyday but this has gone way past that point. Our living room has his smell because that is where he normally sleeps when he stays with us. I don't even want to sit in it right now. It's becoming quite bad. He went back home to visit his family for the holiday but honestly, I'm a little scared for when he come back. Neither my husband nor I know how to bring this up. Have any of you ever had to bring this with a friend or loved one? If so, how did you do it? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
  2. Ziggy

    Ziggy Well-Known Member

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    Is it something that always was an issue with him?

    Because not taking care of yourself to that extent (assuming that he normally does) might be a symptom of depression or other mental issues.

    P.S. I always thought you were a guy. :p
  3. orbitz

    orbitz Well-Known Member

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    Have you already given him an Xmas gift? If not then when he returns to your house give him some bars of handmade soap and a lufa sponge. You can casually say something like, "We saw these incredible handmade soaps from store xxx. We've used them and think they're incredible. Why don't you try them out now and let us know what you think. We really want your opinion of them. As a matter of fact, go use our shower now to test them out. Here are the towels..." Perhaps that will give him the hint? ;)

    If you guys are dear friends then I think your husband should be able to bring up the subject when he and the friend are alone together and, like Ziggy said, try to see if there's something going on in his life that is making him forget his personal hygiene.
  4. Ziggy

    Ziggy Well-Known Member

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    Yes, it's much better if your husband brings it up without you being present.
  5. modern_muslimah

    modern_muslimah Well-Known Member

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    He's never been the type to shower everyday but he usually at least washes up every couple of days. So BO hasn't been an issue in the past. I do wonder if something else is up.

    This is a good idea orbitz. We haven't given him a gift yet. He actually left in a bit of a rush yesterday to go back home. So the idea of soaps as a gift is a good one. My husband isn't quite sure how to bring up this issue with him but if it continues he may not have a choice but to talk to him directly about it.
  6. Southpaw

    Southpaw Saint Smugpawski

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    Oh, I don't think giving the dude soap is a very good idea. That's a very passive-agressive way to deal with the situation and it's humiliating. Maybe this guy is unique, but I don't know very many men who would even want soap as a gift so it would be taken exactly for what it is: a passive-aggressive jab at him. Let your husband have a dude to dude talk with him to take care of the situation, humiliating the guy by giving him soap isn't going to fix the problem and will likely make the situation worse, but a reasonable man to man chat likely will. You can't be involved in that conversation so you'll need to make yourself scarce when it happens. The guy probably doesn't even realize he smells as bad as he does.
  7. ballettmaus

    ballettmaus Well-Known Member

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    How about going with what Ziggy mentioned; your husband could ask if everything is okay in your friend's life because he noticed some changes in his behavior etc.
  8. Christina

    Christina Well-Known Member

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    Sometimes a direct conversation is best. "Dude, what's up? You stink."

    I agree with Southpaw, I wouldn't gift soaps to him, that is passive aggressive. Maybe he can't use the soap you have for some reason. Buy some Ivory (can't just about everyone use Ivory) and have your husband let him know there is new soap just for him. Some people don't like sharing a bar of soap.
  9. birdgal

    birdgal New Member

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    I wonder, if he is depressed? Lack of hygiene can be a manifestation of depression, especially, if this is not his norm.

    It would be tough to tell someone that they need to shower, but I think it could be done in a kind manner and come from the standpoint of concern and caring.
  10. Ziggy

    Ziggy Well-Known Member

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    If he used to shower every second day, definitely do that.
  11. Lanie

    Lanie Well-Known Member

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    I've known people like this. It was always out of laziness or not liking to bathe/be clean/etcetera and being utterly unaware of it. Ick.
  12. vesperholly

    vesperholly Well-Known Member

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    I agree completely. It may be thoroughly uncomfortable and awkward, but a direct, sit-down chat needs to happen. Maybe it'd be easier if you try to address the cause (why isn't he showering?) instead of the effect (he smells). Especially since you've noticed his habits have changed recently.

    If he's gone to visit his family, perhaps one of them will say something.

    Going from generally acceptable personal hygiene to extreme stinky is not normal, and it saddens me that you'd think he was lazy. How judgmental.
  13. Ziggy

    Ziggy Well-Known Member

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    I've known posters like this. It was always out of laziness and narrow-mindedness and being utterly unaware of it. Ick.
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  14. rudi

    rudi New Member

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    Normally, I probably wouldn't; however, since he lives with you, and it affects your living space, I would probably just have your husband approach him directly without you present (so as not to embarrass him.) He may not even realize it.
  15. orbitz

    orbitz Well-Known Member

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    If you consider him a good friend of yours then you're also doing him a favor by letting him know about his body odor issue since he has to deal with other people in the world also, assuming that he's not living as a hermit. The definition of friend implies that you guys should be able to freely discuss issues with one another. If you have to walk on eggshell around a "friend" then he's really not your friend.
  16. Lanie

    Lanie Well-Known Member

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    No, just saying the people I've known who are like this were pretty much always like this. No sudden changes or anything, which would make me think something was wrong. Should have added that.

    I'm not sure what I'd do in OP's situation though.
  17. Quintuple

    Quintuple papillon d'amour

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    I work next to a gal that smells like tennis sweat hotboxed in a car with a fist full of pennies for two weeks. And had durian for every meal.

    The difference is, she's a crazy know-it-all who invades my space, not a friend by any means. She has this crazy gift of saying really obvious things in really condescending ways. "Oh, I see that you're carrying a cup. You know, people carry cups because, quite frankly, I've found that they're thirsty and they want something to drink. I didn't expect that you'd know that so I thought I'd point that out."

    But I still struggle to say *anything* at all because BO is one of the most sensitive issues you could let someone know about.

    So one day, another gal in the other cube next to me said something really off color about other people's cultures, my shoulders tensed up and I started typing as fast as I could, and smelly gal suddenly piped in, "Yes, sometimes people of other cultures don't get other people's cultures. For example, sometimes MEN of other cultures smell REALLY BAD but they do not see anything wrong with it, and it's so difficult to bring up to them!"

    So I thought it was my opportunity to slide something in, in the spirit of horrendously inappropriate conversation. "Yeah, doncha hate it when some people smell like tennis sweat hotboxed in a car with a fist full of pennies for two weeks, and had durian for every meal?"

    Her response: "I think you would do them a favor by telling them!"

    I turned around and kept typing.
  18. Rex

    Rex Well-Known Member

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    I agree with having your husband tell him, modern_muslimah. Good luck with that - it's a very difficult thing to have to tell someone close to you.
  19. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

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    And you could still smell her given the overpowering odor of durian? :scream:

    I had to have this conversation with a manager who worked for me years ago. Worst. Conversation. Ever. Like quite a few folks here in town, he practiced (followed?) Shambahala, and his sect (?) encouraged people to only use natural salt crystal since anything else kept them "apart from nature."

    It was incredibly uncomfortable, but the pong anywhere near him was awful. He turned bright, bright red, but I did it at the very end of the day so that there wasn't too much more time that we had to deal with each other that day. The next day it was a lot better, and after a couple of weeks (by which time all his clothes had been washed, and the office aired out) it was fine. Glad I did it, but it really wasn't comfortable.

    I've heard that HR departments sometimes handle this conversation, especially when it involves a peer or someone's manager, or a gender difference. That wouldn't help modern_muslimah, but you (Quintuple) might find some help.

    And few things beat a bunch of sweaty middle-school-aged boys who've doused themselves in Axe rather than showering.
  20. Scintillation

    Scintillation New Member

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    We had an issue with a girl at work recently who has really smelly feet, and she left her shoes at work one night. The shoes stunk up the entire back room--it was like the Superman of bad odor. We told her really gently that we noticed there she had some shoe odor going on, and could she please put her shoes in a bag when she's gone? We were so obviously nervous about bringing up the subject that she laughed and said she was glad we had told her, and she wasn't offended at all. Now we joke about her smelly feet and it's all good.
    Anyways, I wouldn't recommend being passive aggressive about it. Just straight up tell them in the nicest way possible.
  21. MacMadame

    MacMadame Internet Beyotch

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    It's either going to be humiliating or it's going to go right over his head. I vote for the later, in fact, as that's been my experience with people who have personal grooming issues.

    I vote for your dh talking to him with no one around and stressing the "is anything wrong?" aspect.

    Awk. My nose hurts just thinking about it!
  22. Holley Calmes

    Holley Calmes Well-Known Member

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    I don't think I've ever had a body odor problem with a friend, but I have had one with friends who must eat a whole bulb of grlic every day and don't realize that not only does their breath knock you over, but the garlic is eventually secreted in sweat through the pores and their essence could peel paint off the walls. These are people who bathe regularly and probably don't have a clue what the garlic is doing to their impression on others, especially in a crowded elevator. I love garlic too, but man....it can be brutal!!

    In regard to the problem at hand here....also consider - is it that the man doesn't bathe or could he be washing, but he's wearing the same clothes over and over because he's unable to buy new ones or he has no access to laundry facilities while doing this project. Just a thought.

    Being a friend means having to tackle the tough jobs as well as the fun ones. Telling a friend he might be alienating others because of a hygiene problem is doing him a favor. He might be embarrassed or ashamed or surprized, but it's better for a friend to tell him than for some child on a bus to yell out "Mister, you stink!!" I've been around a 3 year old this weekend, and believe me, Zach would do just that in a fit of childish honesty. That would surely hurt the person more than a trusted friend giving them a heads-up in a loving way.
  23. orbitz

    orbitz Well-Known Member

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    Sometimes a homeless person makes it onto a public bus or metro train, and the smell can get really bad.
  24. Wiery

    Wiery Well-Known Member

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    Maybe he's trying to be a considerate guest and not use your water-water bills can be expensive, and maybe he doesn't want to ask to use your washer/dryer to clean his clothes. I"m grasping at straws here, but you never really know...

    Anyway, I'd hand the guy a towel and robe, give him a gentle nudge into the bathroom, and tell him "Please feel free to use our shower....now. Also, give me your clothes; I'll go start a load of laundry for you. Just put them outside the door."
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  25. rudi

    rudi New Member

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    I know that you are right. It's just such a sensitive subject that it would be difficult to imagine a conversation about this that isn't at least a little awkward. I guess I just hope I never have to address it with anyone!
  26. jadingirl

    jadingirl New Member

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    I agree with wiery that he might be uncomfortable using your facilities. If he is all cleaned up after the holidays that might be all it is.
  27. Aceon6

    Aceon6 Get off my lawn

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    Another vote for "Is everything ok, because we've noticed your habits have changed." You didn't say how many full baths you have or where they're located, but if the shower is off the master, you may need to block out time for him to feel comfortable using it.
  28. modern_muslimah

    modern_muslimah Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for all the input. He has used our shower in the past so he knows that it is off limits. We don't have a washer and dryer at home but I've taken him to the laundromat in the past. My husband is going to talk to him when he comes back into town today. My husband is thinking that it maybe his illness that is affecting his lack of bathing. He has an illness that can cause pain to his joints. So maybe taking a shower affects his joints?
  29. Marco

    Marco Missing Ziggy

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    I wonder if he is just showering less because he is staying at your home and he doesn't have enough underwear to go around his laundry cycle.
  30. Louise

    Louise Banned Member

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    There's always a tactful way of approaching this. If a friend has a booger in his nose, a piece of food stuck to his teeth, or bad BO I feel as a friend you should just say something outright and get it over with. I'd say that I've noticed he has pretty constant BO and that he needs to shower everyday because the smell is noticeable in the house. Right to the point, no shame involved, and the matter is done. Whether it's a depression problem or not, your house does not need to smell like his BO. How hard is it for him to just shower once a day?
  31. michiruwater

    michiruwater Well-Known Member

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    For someone with serious depression, the thought of just getting out of bed seems almost insurmountably hard some days, let alone cleaning your body.

    Not that we know he is depressed, but it's very easy to label seriously depressed people as just lazy assholes.
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  32. numbers123

    numbers123 Well-Known Member

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    Do you have another shower? If yours is off limits, where is he supposed to shower or clean up? :confused:
  33. Angelskates

    Angelskates Active Member

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    I think it's a typo, since he's used the shower in the past.
  34. Holley Calmes

    Holley Calmes Well-Known Member

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    I have a lot of arthritis and joint and back pain from both heredity and from taking Tamoxifen for breast cancer. My joints ache like hell. All the time. I can honestly tell you that when you've been working hard and using your body in a physical way, as has this gentleman, it's all you can do to just crawl in bed, and then getting back up after sleep is sometimes just hell. However, hot showers are sometimes the only way I can get myself upright in the morning, so hot showers and warm baths would actually be good for him. I can understand hurting all over. Sometimes dressing and undressing are a chore as well when you can't bend very much.
  35. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    This will be awkward, but when you need to give someone bad news, or tell them something uncomfortable, I believe you need to do it quickly, and be quite frank and to the point. Doing it any other way just adds to the awkwardness.

    If this person is your friend, you owe him this much.

    And I agree with others that this needs to be done in private, and man-to-man.
  36. skateboy

    skateboy Well-Known Member

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    I agree with this.

    Once, I lived in an apartment building that had defective washing machines. I wasn't aware of it, but the water that "washed" the clothes basically had sewage in it. After my first (and last) time using the machines, I was out socializing with friends and noticed this weird, unpleasant smell. One of my friends said to me, "Dude, you smell really bad." I was horrified to find out it was me, but my feelings were not hurt. I was glad to know and made sure it never happened again.
  37. Capella

    Capella Guest

    So any update?
  38. Twilight1

    Twilight1 Well-Known Member

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    ITA with whoever brought up that sometimes not taking care of oneself hygenically is a sign of depression.

    Hope everything is okay now.
  39. BigB08822

    BigB08822 Well-Known Member

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    I would come at it from a place of concern. Let your husband say that he has noticed some changes and wants to make sure everything is OK. If he insists everything is fine then ask him to please shower more often as he has noticed some smells and he doesn't want others to think bad things. If the guy admits to a problem then be considerate but let him know that he still has to shower occasionally and is there anything we can do to help?
  40. essence_of_soy

    essence_of_soy Well-Known Member

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    Interesting topic, and it's been good to see how diplomatic people have been handling such an awkward situation.

    It reminds me of a similar problem I experienced with a friend over 20 years ago. He had particularly bad B.O, but I just didn't have the guts to address it. Made it very difficult going to the movies or dinner because in close quarters, that's all I could concentrate on.

    However, he soon got a job with a high - powered law firm and they took him aside in private and addressed the issue firmly, but tactfully. After that, it was never an issue.

    So, sometimes people just aren't aware of it, I guess.