Funny and Effective Ways to Tell Someone They STINK

By Blog, Leadership

Ever know… that guy!  You know the one that can set the world on fire with his armpits.  Or the girl who can clear out a networking event with her breath.  If they’re good people you want to tell them.  If not, you want to warn others.

It takes guts to tell someone something that they need to hear but no one wants to say.

Over the years, I have learned how to say a few phrases that tell people what they need to know even when they might not want to hear it.

For things you can help fix right now – Bad Breath and Arm Pits

Make sure that you have a supply that can provide the help they need.


I think your 24 hour protection ran out a couple of hours ago. I had to change the one I was testing because after 2 hours I smelled like sheep.  LOL!  Here you can use mine.
(Proactively pass it to them. Works great in the bathroom. Might require some pre-toilet stalking.)


OMG!  Did you go to Garcia’s for lunch. <don’t wait for an answer> Me too. Always kills my breath. For three days I have to brush my tongue just to get rid of the odor. (Eat a mint, pass a mint, chuckle.)

The Tactic:

Don’t assume they always smell or even know that they smell.  Someone told me that dry earwax meant that they didn’t need deodorant (I know… but here is the link).  But in fact, their armpits could clear a dance floor. Be the person that has “been there and been challenged with it” so they feel like they have an ally.


For things you can’t fix right now – Shower and Dirty Clothes

Put yourself in their shoes by making their issue your issue and how you fixed it. Or call out some other fictitious character with the same obvious issue and talk about them.


Are you testing a new soap? When I used Zest soap it also left me with no b.o. protection. It was horrible. I switched to Dial and it made a world of difference. (The secret word here is ALSO. Nice way of saying you smell like old sheep just like I did in grade school when I went through that no bathing period.)

Dirty Clothes:

I remember when I left my clothes in washer forever I couldn’t get that smell out either. You know what helped me was three re-washes in Tide  followed by a quick trip to the dryer.


OMG! Dan must have been in here. He doesn’t wash his clothes on a regular basis and the smell it leaves behind is awful. Can you smell that? <sniff sniff> You must be standing exactly where Dan was standing because it is permeating from your general area now. If I were you I would wash those three times.

Hair and Hands:

Are you using the new Tom’s shampoo?  I was asking because I tried it for about 3 months and left that same kind of odor in my hair and it seemed to take forever to get rid of.


This girl I know named Sara absolutely refuses to wash her hair and it smells horrible. I don’t know why people think that if they don’t wash their hair no one can smell it. But then they scratch their head or touch their hair and it’s like they set off a bomb. Gosh! It smells like she’s been in here. Do you smell that?

What to do when hints don’t work

I’ve personally had this conversation three times. Once with a consultant that I could not send to a client because of serious body odor issues. Another time with a person that thought she didn’t need to use deodorant because she didn’t think that she medically produced a body odor; which meant that I could not refer her any business. And a another person who thought that washing his hair was something that should be done once a year or so. Unfortunately, he was the sales guy for my company. His head scratching turned into really smelly hands to boot.

When the hints didn’t work on the sales guy I had to have a heart to heart that went like this:

[wc_box color=”#666666″ text_align=”left”]

“Dan; I am having a challenge sending you to clients. Your work is fantastic, you are a great guy with a great sense of humor, however, there is one complaint.

You need to fix the your body odor problem.  It has gotten pretty strong. The good news is that it is an easy fix. I will let you come up with a solution and get back to you in a week if it is still a problem. Thanks Dan”, I said as I walked to the door of my office escorting him out.


Yep! That is it. Less than 30 seconds.

Why SO short

No one wants to have a long drawn out embarrassing conversation. There is no need in going over childhood histories or corrections. Dan now knows the issue and should have the ability to make a correction by leveraging Google. If he wants more info, the hard part is over and he can come to me again. But for now, he just needs to be set free to make a correction.

HEY HEY! HOLD ON – Not so fast

If you live by the following rules:

1- My clothes are not dirty if they are not standing on their own

2- I don’t need deodorant because my natural smell is just plain sexy

3 – I can’t smell my breath and I am not a close talker, so it is not bad

4 – I shower when I really really need to but not like regularly

And you think, “There is no possible way that this could be me because no one has ever said anything.”

Once you are old enough to get on LinkedIN no one feels it is their job to tell you. If you were forwarded this post, then please take heed. It is a message that there might be something not quite right that you have to work out. So… work it out.


Have you ever had to tell someone they smell? Or are you currently dealing with a tough conversation? Put your comments below and let’s fix it now.