Q: One of your friends wears way too much cologne. How do you tell him to tone it down?


A: There is no easy way to tell people that their smell is bothersome. It’s harsh. But it may be imperative for you to coexist in the same space.

One approach would be to compliment the person. Yes, no matter what you think of the smell, compliment the choice of perfume or cologne. But then add that although it smells wonderful, it seems to be giving you a bad reaction, so you are going to keep your distance. This switches the issue from the person to the choice of perfume or cologne. My hope is this softer approach will change the person’s behavior.

The impression that people leave shouldn’t be of their perfume or cologne.

JULES MARTINEZ HIRST, etiquette expert


A: I had a friend in high school who would show up every day smelling as if he had bathed in Axe body spray. Afraid of losing him as a friend if I were to offend him in his dramatic journey through self-identity, I said nothing. But because of that, every time we hung out, I could never totally relax because I was constantly battling the urge to sneeze.

He eventually realized his mistake, and, in retrospect, I wish I had helped him do that sooner. Always tell your friends if the smell is an issue. Emphasize that the smell is creating a boundary for you — literally, in this case. It’s forcing you to keep a distance between yourself and your friend.

And don’t make the same mistake I made and wait to say something. The sooner you speak up, the better for you and your friend.

MARY TILDEN, Chicago actor and stand-up comedian