How to Tell Someone They Smell Bad

How can you tell someone that… they smell bad? The people who asked us to develop this tool were embarrassed to do so. Maybe you’re even a little embarrassed to have downloaded this tool! While this may seem like an innocuous situation for some, it’s not. When we’re in the middle of it—and most of us have been—we can feel uncomfortable and stuck for a long time. How can we manage this conversation without straining the relationship with the person concerned? This can lead us to procrastinate and let the situation linger instead of doing something about it.

This tool can help you when tackling any situation where you have a sensitive message to deliver, be it about the way they dress, the way they smell, or their use of inappropriate language. No use beating around the bush, trying to convey the message indirectly, or finding excuses to avoid this conversation. The longer we wait, the worse it will be both for the person delivering the message and the person receiving it (who will undoubtedly ask how long this situation has been going on!)

This type of conversation is never easy, but by being properly prepared, you can make sure that it’s neither offensive nor insulting. Sometimes, things go wrong not because of what is said, but because we believe it is said with mean intentions. This is why this conversation needs to be rooted in mutual respect, kindness and mutual benefit. So, how do we tackle such a sensitive topic?


  • As soon as possible! If the situation has been lingering, stop waiting! Better late than never.
  • Find the appropriate time and the appropriate place. You don’t want the other person to have to make eye contact with anyone as they leave this meeting.


  • First, make sure to check your facts (if you aren’t a first-hand witness).
  • Prepare your message according to the steps on the next page. Proper preparation will lower your stress and boost your confidence.
  • Identify your apprehensions surrounding this conversation.
  • Anticipate potential reactions, and prepare accordingly.


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