My friend has body odor so intense that people joke about him behind his back. I'd like to help him. Is there a tactful way to broach the subject?

Understandably, many people are reluctant to take on this difficult conversation. “Couldn’t I just send an anonymous note or leave a hint like a stick of deodorant?” While easy on you, it would be humiliating and hurtful to your friend to receive such a note. Now is the time to be a good friend. Before approaching him, have these goals in mind:

  • Have the conversation in private.
  • Focus on your friendship and your concern for his success, not the problem.
  • Listen to what he has to say, and offer suggestions if you can.
  • Assure him that the conversation will remain completely confidential.

You might say, “Tom, I’d like to talk to you about a difficult issue. I hope if the situation were reversed that as my friend, you would talk with me. Are you aware that you have body odor?”

Now that you’ve done the hard part and broached the subject, be sympathetic and supportive. If he reacts angrily, assure him of your friendship. Often when this happens, the person will come back and thank you once he’s thought it over.