Even if you want to, sometimes it may be virtually impossible to talk to someone face-to-face because of their awful breath. And while the words “You have bad breath” seems easy to summon in such situations, you need to stand back.
Unless you observe proper etiquette in this delicate situation, you might just lose a friend in the process. Even though you mean no harm in informing people the truth about their breath, they could take it as an attack against their character.
That’s why you need to devise a plan. If you don’t strategize, you might end up permanently severing your relationships.
Here’s what you can do.
Basic & Direct
Your first option is to say it as it is. Instead of deviating to another subject or sugarcoating to mask what can be a hurtful truth, you should just cut to the chase.
The basic and direct approach of telling people they have awful breath is a winner because it delivers your message across right then and there — and clearly. Especially if you have a close bond with Mr. Bad Breath guy or you’re dealing with a no-nonsense person, this approach is favorable.
What you can say:
1. Kindly brush your teeth and gargle.
2. Here’s some gum. You have bad breath, dude.
3. I don’t think we could proceed with our work if you haven’t washed your mouth or chewed something minty.
4. Don’t take this the wrong way. But I think you shouldn’t talk to other people with breath like that. You have bad breath, dude.
5. You must’ve eaten something foul-smelling. It happens. Just brush your teeth and it’ll go away.
Another option is to offer yourself as a sacrificial lamb.
Heard of the saying “Misery loves company“? This approach is about that.
This is recommended, especially if you’re going to speak to an emotionally-fragile person. Dealing with a highly-sensitive person can be tricky because he takes matters too personally. At the slightest negative comment about him, he’d think you’re out to get him. He’d think that instead of delivering news, your purpose of speaking to him is to hurt his feelings.
So to give it to him effectively, give it to yourself, too. This way, he’ll understand you are merely saying something and not intentionally launching a verbal attack. If you, yourself, didn’t find your message offensive, then he shouldn’t either.
By processing your own share of bad news together, the highly-sensitive person will see that you are just delivering the news, indeed.
So if taking the fall is no biggie for you, then use this approach.
What you can say:
6. *checks breath* I have awful breath. This is embarrassing. How about you?
7. When I heard that the quality of a person’s breath is linked to health issues, I decided to always check my breath and then take matters from there. You should do the same.
8. *checks breath* Maybe I need to brush my teeth and gargle. How about you?
9. *chews gum* This gum solves my awful breath problem. Want one?
10. Once I had bad breath, too. What I did was… [well-researched solution]
This is your third option.
For others, using sarcasm to deliver this kind of news will only worsen situations. But for the rest, it won’t.
Its impact can actually be better.
When delivering bad news, sarcasm can be more effective. In fact, more than 70% out of 60 participants in a study group responded to sarcasm effectively — better than they did to plain words.
Then again, whether or not sarcasm will work wonders when telling someone they have awful breath depends on a specific person. If a person is a fan of sarcasm, satire, dark humor, and self-deprecating jokes, go with this approach.
Otherwise, ditch that idea out of respect. Different strokes for different folks, right?
What you can say:
11. Is your new hobby not washing your mouth? Awesome! Mine’s maximizing the advantages of an elliptical trainer.
12. So you had poop for breakfast, eh? Nice! I had a cheese sandwich.
13. *When they open their mouth* Ah! Fresh, foul odor. Thanks. I like it.
14. Don’t have time to wash your mouth, I bet. Cool.
15. If you wish to scare off somebody, just go near him, open your mouth, and then talk.
So just take your pick out of the 15 and decide which one will work best.
Remember that telling someone they have bad breath isn’t always easy. But you need to do it. Otherwise, someone else — tactlessly — will.
Please comment below if you have something to add.