Q: “One of my co-workers has really offensive breath. It’s so bad that people don’t want to work around him. How can I broach this topic without sounding like I’m picking on him?”
A: Most of the time, people don’t know or can’t tell when their breath is a problem.
Here’s what to try. Sometime, when things are going well and the atmosphere is light, ask the person: “Hey, if there was some small issue that would help you work with others, would you want to know—even if it seems a bit picky?” Most people would say “yes.” Then say, “Okay, but remember I’m not trying to pick on you. I simply think it might help you. Is it still alright?” By this time the person’s curiosity has piqued. Next just say, “It’s your breath, it could use a tune up. I just wanted to let you know. Are we still okay?”
After that, just let it go. Don’t bring up any other traits that he could change or it will sound like you are picking on him. Keep it simple.
Some 20 years ago, our youth pastor handed me a breath mint during one of my son’s meetings; I said, “No, thanks.” He said, “No, really, I insist….” I got the hint and have carried breath mints ever since, and sometimes offer them to others.
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