Tough Talks

I am of a personality that can be very blunt at times especially when it comes to certain conversations. I was speaking with a friend yesterday who was telling about her work day and she mentioned that someone she works with has a hygiene problem to the point where it’s a bit distracting to everyone else who works with this individual. So I asked her if she told said individual that they stink. She told me that she did not tell them directly but told their supervisor in the hopes that he/she would tell the individual. My response was she’s lucky I don’t work there.

Now I know what you may be thinking. Most people in this situation would probably suffer silently because they would not want to hurt that individual’s feelings. While I completely understand that sentiment, sometimes these tough talks must be had. For example, back when I was a manager at my previous job, it was brought to my attention that one of the employees was suffering from bad body odor. So I did a walk by just to make sure I was being told the truth and then I left it alone. I figured maybe it was one of those days where there was just so much going on that the individual didn’t have time to take a shower that day. I mean it happens. Some of us literally go from one job to the next and it could just be a hectic day. You have to give people the benefit of the doubt; at least in the beginning.

Well, the next day, it was the same situation and then the day after that. I got it into my mind that clearly it’s more to it than that and hey maybe the individual was immune to the smell and just didn’t notice. So I told my DM, the manager above me, and let him know that someone has to tell this individual. Maybe they just don’t know. Even he didn’t want to to do so I took initiative one day, brought them into the office, sat them down and told them, “there is no nice way to say this so I’m just going to tell you. You stink.” The individual actually took it very well. They told me that they were really glad I was honest with them to their face versus bickering with the rest of the staff about it behind their back. After that, the issue was resolved.

Now, tough talks don’t always go that smoothly. For example, an ex-friend was all about her boyfriend. I tried to like him but I just didn’t mostly because I knew he was up to nefarious actions behind her back. Well actually it wasn’t behind her back cause she knew about them but she would always shrug them off and that drove me insane. So she asked me to be a bridesmaid to her wedding. At first I said yes. And then something happened, again, that I was completely not okay with. She shrugged it off, again, and I told her I couldn’t consciously stand up at her wedding, knowing what I know, and be okay with that union. I told her I would come as a guest witness but not as a bridesmaid witness. She severed ties with me after that.

Over time I’ve come to realize that we are often put into these situations where everyone is thinking it but no one wants to say it. I’ve pretty much designated myself as the person that IS thinking it and WILL say it regardless of what the outcome might be. Maybe it’s because I was so shy before and shuttered off a good chunk of my thoughts because I was worried about other people’s feelings but I’ve come to realize that by telling the honest truth is me caring about your feelings whether you want to hear the rough stuff or not. I see it as, at least someone was honest with you and what you decide to do going forward is completely up to you but at least you have the whole picture, not just the fluffy side.

Have you ever had to have a tough conversation with a friend or family member? Did the outcome of the conversation surprise you or did you expect that reaction? Do you agree with my handling of my personal experiences? Let me know in the comments below!


Happily married, bookaholic, Netflix-a-holic sharing random experiences and interpretations of my world which is brutally honest most of the time.

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51 thoughts on “Tough Talks

  1. Tough talks are tough for a reason. I’ve had a few in my time, some worked out… others not so much. I had a tough talk with (Adult) Brother once about his behavior and lack of ‘being present’ in our lives and complaining too much. I put my foot down and laid it all out. At first he was furious, hurt and embarrassed. Eventually he came to realize the wisdom in my honesty and now we’re good friends and we’re both present in each other’s lives on equal setting.

    • I’m glad you decided to put your foot down and also that he realized the value from your honesty overall. You are so right. They are tough for a reason but sometimes they just need to be had in order to move forward no matter the direction. πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing a bit of your life experience Cim!

  2. You are brave and admirable. I have been in this situation and found ways to tell people things they didn’t want to hear. Especially with probably delivering 500+ employee reviews over the years. It’s always gone well; certainly some crying and angry reactions, but in the end, it was understood even if not fully agreed with. It’s all about the delivery. And if someone can’t respect you for telling the truth, it’s completely their problem, assuming you were fair in the delivery. Which undoubtedly you are.

    Nice awareness post today!

    • Thanks James. Even when I don’t know how best to say something that I know could possibly sound really mean, I always put that disclaimer at the beginning like, “I don’t know the right words to make this sound less harsh so I’m just going to give it to you straight the best way I know how…”. And then just hope for the best. Thank you for sharing a bit of your life experience and I’m glad you liked this post. πŸ™‚

  3. When I was still in ballet as a teen, there was an adult student that brought her large dog to the classes. The instructor allowed that. Anyway everyone in the class knew the dog constantly farted. We put up with it for a while, but then a student told her mom and the mom complained to the instructor.

    The instructor told the dog owner to find a way to stop the dog from farting or leave it at home. We all hoped she’d leave the dog home, but instead she changed the dog’s food. Didn’t work! I think eventually she left the dog home and we were all happy, but the owner was determined to bring the stinky pet.

    Your story’s “stinker” seemed to fix the problem with more bathing, but I know of some people who struggle with body odor despite bathing a lot. In these cases it’s medical. I think some medications do help such people, but not all. If not, I think such people should have special accommodations like an office a bit isolated from the rest, or work from home opportunities, if possible.

    • Oh geez. I can imagine dog farts being super distracting in a ballet class. Glad they eventually decided to just leave their pet at home.

      I hear you on the medical issues. That’s another reason why I’d bring the issue into the light. That gives the individual a chance to let me know their situation so I can deal with the rest of the staff accordingly because I’d hate for someone to be made fun of for something they’re trying to control. Since it was a retail environment there’s no isolation that could solve the issue but I think having a staff in your corner that will support you in case you get a rude customer would go a long way to helping an individual rather than hurting them.

  4. I have unfortunately had many tough conversation with the hope that they would go well. Unfortunately, most of the tough conversations that I have had have not gone well. Except for a couple of the tough conversations. I tend to expect the worst in most situation and hope for the best. I believe that your tough conversation with the individual that had a B.O. (Body Odor) problem was handled well. I think that the person that came to you to report that there was an individual with B.O., should have been the person to talk to (respectfully) the individual about his/her B.O. I think that management should not have been involved unless the individual refused to take advice on the first persons tough conversation. Only then, should the individual that gave the tough talk go to management to report the problem.

    I believe you handled the problem wonderfully. Great job on an awesome post!

  5. Inspirational, Nel.
    I was in the past, to my own detriment, never a tough talker. Never said what was on my mind.
    But life is too short, as the old clichΓ© goes.
    I say what I think now. If needed. I think there is a bad habit these days of people being plain old mean c-words disguised as “just being honest” which is destructive to everyone involved.
    But to voice honesty in the clearly diplomatic and pragmatic and genuine way that you do, is brave and deeply caring.
    I may come back and read this again if I’m faltering! 😁

    • Thanks Maria. I definitely agree with that sentiment of people being mean c-words disguised as “just being honest”. One particular person who shall not be named comes to mind…. hahaha. I’m glad you enjoyed this post and yes, feel free to come back and read it as many times as you need to πŸ™‚

    • Before I had my stroke ten years ago, I was the quite girl in the corner who would not say much to anyone unless spoken to. But, since then, I tell it as I see it most times. With as much honesty as I can. I have never liked lies or half truths. Nor will I tell lies or half truths myself. I tend to expect the same from those that I interact with in person and with those around me. Even to the point that if a person cannot be honest and truthful, then they should not take up my time. I know this is harsh. But, as you said, “life is short.” I know this from experience. Especially, since my stroke was at such an early age (26 year old). I really do not have the patience or the time to deal with those that lie to me. I was also raised that “honesty is the only policy” and was made to repeat the phrase over and over again for many weeks for telling a white lie as a teen. (As most teens tend to do). It taught me a valuable lesson that I keep in mind even today.

      • Wow, thank you for sharing that with me.
        Indeed half truths and lies hurt both parties and only fester and rot us from the inside.
        You’re clearly a survivor and an inspiration and are obviously wise due to experiences and life…you be honest as you are and everything good will follow.
        All the very best to you X🌺🌺🌺

  6. Such a great topic Nel. I can totally agree with you. I have a hard time having conversations like that with strangers but family, well let’s just say that I need to learn how not to be so blunt. I constantly hurt my dad’s new wife’s feelings. I can’t help it. I say things that sound fine to me but since she is so sensitive it hurts her feelings. My family knows that when it is me and family that I don’t filter. Hey it is family right. If I can’t be honest with them who can I be honest with. Oh well. πŸ˜‰

    • Hahaha Patty you are so right! I feel like family are your trial runs for when you do have to let loose on a stranger! They definitely make the best guinea pigs. I can see both sides of it with your dad’s new wife. But I mean, and maybe I’m just cynical, but sometimes its best because it may just teach her to be a bit more tough so when she encounters strangers who don’t care about her feelings at all, she’ll be able to handle it a bit better.

  7. GAH! NEL! You handled both situations so well… I do have tough talks with family… I try to wait to bring it up at the most opportune moment. No point in talking to someone pissed off from something else they just won’t hear you. So basically I do the same with strangers. I like to do things like talk to someone about sensitive stuff ASAP but I’ve learned that I’ll be able to sense the right moment if I’m patient! <3 Great stories and a rock solid point!

    • Thanks Dani! I definitely agree with waiting for the most opportune moment to bring up a tough topic especially when it’s sensitive. I wouldn’t want to dump more stress on a person who’s already stressed out but I definitely would want to get the issue out into the air as soon as possible.
      Glad you enjoyed this post! πŸ™‚

  8. Great post Nel. Following your heart is always best. No one wants to be the bearer of bad news but many time the bad news ends in great results. Thank you for sharing.πŸŒΉπŸ’πŸ˜˜

  9. The best “tough talk” I ever witnessed was many years ago and I’ve never forgotten it. A few of my coworkers were talking with our boss, just chatting. My boss took out a tin of Altoids and offered it around. She said “if you are ever offered a mint, take it.” In other words, there may be a reason why someone may think you NEED a mint. I loved that bit of wisdom. Of course, it’s harder to do if someone needs deodorant!

    • My coworker was just telling me how when she was a manager she’d keep mouthwash near the door and told smokers to gargle after they came in from a smoke cause she was a smoker herself and didn’t want to talk her or her staff to talk to customers with nicotine breath. It’s definitely a great bit of wisdom! Thank you for sharing your experience Linda πŸ™‚

  10. Yep I’ve been in those exact two situations! Spooky I had to tell a colleague they drank because everyone was being mean about them behind their back, and I refused to be a bridesmaid to a friend because her fiance was all kinds of wrong. She ditched me and married him!

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one who doesn’t agree with being a witness to a union that’s not genuine. Do you think they’re still together now?

      • I would like to think not but she was willing to overlook cheating and violence to marry him so I suspect they are. It makes me very sad, she was a very good friend but sometimes you have to call a person out for being no good.

        • I hear that. The one I talked about is still with the guy and supposedly they’re reproducing. I can only hope a child changes certain habits.

  11. Tough talk can be difficult but often necessary. I think the important thing is to be mindful of the other person’s feelings. Be genuine and not hurtful in your delivery and hopefully they see that you’re feedback is coming from a good place. Thanks for sharing. Being a Supervisor in a Call Centre I had to have my fair share of ‘tough talks’ it was not always easy but I’ve learnt over the years. Thanks for sharing. πŸ™‚

    • Thank you for sharing your experience Cherylene. I can only imagine the tough talks you’ve given when you’re in a supervisor position and you are so right. Even if you have to begin with saying, I’m really sorry to say this, that shows that you care.

  12. Great post, Nel! I think you handled the situation wonderfully. I would have wanted to be told that smelled! I would have been so embarrassed not to know and people talk about me. I think you handled it very thoughtfully! Sometimes you have to have tough talks, which I used to find so hard since I’m very non-confrontational. But when you teach college students there are times you have to get really tough about things…I’ve had to have serious talks about failing grades, being absent, but the big one is plagiarism-that is a really tough one since they can get suspend for doing that, and I have to handle it. Do I want to give them a zero? Or let the dean decide and suspend them? It’s a person’s future right there. I’ve had to make some very tough calls on that one and have some heart to heart talks…or what my grandma always called “come to Jesus” talks!! Never easy! I had a best friend in my twenties that I lost when I had to talk to her about being with a fiance who was drinking, using drugs, unemployed, and just using her. That was hard to do!

    You are so insightful πŸ™‚ Really love this!

    • Thank you Stephanie!! I definitely agree with you completely. In school, the tough talks definitely need to happen because we’re so impressionable at that age plus what you’re teaching them will carry them through life so you want to make sure they understand the way things work. You’re grandma is right! I use that phrase myself sometimes! It’ always seems to be the best friends with the jerk significant others man.

      • You’re welcome! Too true! Unfortunately, these guys are all adults and some of my students are in their 30s and 40s…I have 4 students in their 60s this semester, which is great that people of all ages now are either finishing a degree or going back for the 1st time!! And they are paying for their education unlike public schools, so it makes me mad if they act stupid since so many people can’t go to college, and some of these kids just throw their education away by making choices that are stupid even when you do try to help. But there is no avoiding the tough talks, and they deserve it although when I had to talk to a student last semester who was 46, older than me, about plagiarising her essays off of the internet, that really ticked me off! She had 20 some year old kids, so I kept wondering what she had taught them! I gave her a chance for her to only do it again…then it was out of my hands and she was suspended. I guess there are some people who don’t want chances since that will follow her. That still bothers me.

        My grandma usually was right, lol. I think most people’s grandmas are πŸ™‚ I tell my kids we are going to have those talks when they are in HUGE trouble LOL!

        Yeah, love that we can see how the best friend is involved with the asshole but they can’t and it is somehow our fault….love is blind, I guess!

        • Oh wow. Yeah someone close to 50 should know better. But twice in a row? You’re right that is definitely a bad example to any children they have.
          Grandmas are the best with their wiseness! And yeah loves very blind sometimes indeed. In the case with my friend I think she felt good a little being able to control him or at least her take on control and maybe thought she couldn’t find another who would allow it. But she didnt realize that was one of the reasons her guy snuck around doing bad stuff. What a mess. Thank you for sharing a bit more of your experience Stephanie! I really appreciate your amazing comments 😊

          • You would think she would, right? It was so disappointing because she was so smart too and trying to show her kids you could get a college degree at any age.

            Yeah, control has a way of backfiring! Aww, your welcome! Thanks for always having good conversation 😊

  13. I was just talking about this with a colleague of mine the other day… they run another business and they had a worker who needed to have that ‘tough talking’… I was really interested in finding out how they handled that talk but there’s never a completely soft way around it- just have to say it like it is but with as much thoughtfulness as possible… some great comments here as well with some ideas to take away!
    I work with a bunch of lads myself and I find they’re easy to approach about things they do that get on your nerves in office environment… we’re a small group as well so friendly atmosphere- makes it easier to make a point and then cover it with some lad-humor! πŸ™‚

    • Yes. I can see that. Since I changed jobs and I work around a lot of older men now, they have no inhibitions and no filters and everything can be turned humorous even the most rough situation. It was always the females you had to be sensitive around. I’m glad you enjoyed this post and learned a few things along the way. πŸ™‚

  14. I have the UTMOST respect for you!! (well I always did, but now I do even more). Personally as a Brit I find these conversations so hard and will just suffer in silence in the kind of situation where someone is stinky at work (or something similar). But when push comes to shove in more personal situations, I will be more direct. As much as I hate that kind of conflict, I have had to do similar things to you (I mean, eventually something’s gotta give and you have to be honest!!) Sometimes you just have to suck it up and have those tough conversations! And I think you handled both situations really well. Kinda similar- but I used to do a lot of art and have charcoal/pencil/paint all over me when I went home- I always appreciated when someone came over to me and told me I’d still got something all over my face when I went somewhere- better that than staring- and it’s like someone telling me my shoes are untied- so yeah that was my roundabout way of saying I’d wanna know if I stank!!

    • Aww thanks! You already know how I feel about you and I would definitely be the person to tell you if you had charcoal smudges all over your face. I tell my boss all the time cause we work with graphite so there’s black streaks and dust on everything! I agree. Sometimes you have to be the bearer of tough news but I think that makes us appreciate those ppl more and kind of gives you a point of reference on what a real friend should be or at least encourages others to be as honest as you are. 😁 Thank you for sharing your experience and for your awesome amazing comment!

  15. Props to you for being the one to speak up. I’m that person too and I’m constantly worried that I have something in my teeth or that my makeup has smudged and no one is telling me (or worse, that I’ve upset someone) because so many of my friends don’t speak up!

  16. I’m a tough talker – remember I’ve been told my daughters that I’m brutally honest….I much rather have someone tell or speak to me about a hygiene problem rather than find it out embarrassingly. Not that I have one, but there are the occasions when your deodorant stops working, ate garlic infused something for lunch, that dreaded sinus/seasonal allergy junk going on, etc. When I was in the work force I would keep mints, deodorant, toothbrush/paste for such an emergency. And if a coworker needed deodorant or a mint, I would offer it. No biggie just trying to save a world of embarrassment and humiliation.

    My oldest daughter is a smoker and I have told her many times to keep mints/mouthwash with her at all times. I detest the smell of a smokers breath – it is, to me, nauseating – and me being me has told her so. But, she chooses not to take my advice and so I’m sure someone would will eventually bring it to her attention.

    My other favorite is when someone needs a kleenex and nobody will tell them – hey, you have a booger…. or you have something in your teeth – usually I will hand them a tissue or mirror. That’s just me.

    I can be discreet and not harsh when addressing issues with other people just not with my family πŸ™‚

    • Yeah. I’m just like you except it doesn’t matter to me if it’s family or not. I want to save everyone from embarrassment especially since people are becoming more and more cruel these days for no reason. I figure, a person might be upset that you pointed it out but at the end of the day they’ll remember to look in their teeth, check their breath, put on deodorant and it’ll be part of their routine cause it’s in their head now that if one person noticed, maybe others did too.
      Thanks for sharing your experiences Robin!! I appreciate it! :)<3

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