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How to Let Someone Know They Need to Work on Their Hygiene

By: Jenn Moss

Taking care of your hygiene is crucial to feeling good, and maintaining your health. The majority of us have learned from a young age how to take care of ourselves. These habits typically include bathing/showering regularly, brushing our teeth, and wearing clean clothes, just to name a few. So when we notice that others do not follow those same practices, it can be a tough situation. You can not just simply say “Hey, you have been stinking it up lately.”

Well, I guess maybe you could if it is a family member or friend you have that connection with.

It is indeed a sensitive situation, and one that has the potential to bring about a lot of embarrassment. Sometimes when someone neglects their hygiene, it could be indicative that they are going through something hard in their lives. It could also be a sign of anxiety, or depression, especially if it is uncharacteristic of them. So you may need to tread lightly when approaching the situation.

Here are some possible things to consider:

1. Keep the Discussion Private

This conversation should not be held in a big group of people. Not only is this extremely disrespectful, as the recipient, it could feel like bullying, and may make them feel even more bad about the situation. Instead, ask if you can talk to them over to the side, or set up a time where it is just you and them. This also can be helpful for a follow up, if they would like some help remedying the problem.

2. Try to Use Gentle Language

Although this might be tough to do, try to come up with some descriptive words that are not as harsh as “stink.” You might try to keep the conversation light and chill, while also being clear about your concerns. You might say something along the lines of “I have noticed some changes in your hygiene, and I just wanted to check in with you to see if everything is okay?” By framing the statement this way, it shows that you are attentive, and care about them beyond their physical appearance and odor.

3. Give Them Time to Explain

Hear them out. When we assume things about people, we miss out on the opportunity to find out the truth. Maybe their water has been shut off, maybe they can not afford self-cleaning supplies, or maybe they are struggling with their mental health. No matter the reason, allow them time to explain. This may do a lot more from them than it does it for you.

Deciding how many times a week to shower is a personal choice. But if you notice a friend, co-worker, or family member has gone what seems like weeks without adhering to these needs, you may want to intervene. However, you should so with the same care and caution that you would want if it were you.


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