Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Bringing Up Bad Breath to a Co-Worker

DEAR HARRIETTE: A work colleague who I am not close to but occasionally collaborate with has bad breath. It is more than a bit uncomfortable to speak with him because I try to not be offensive or make faces, but the odor is not OK. I feel I should say something about it, but I am unsure how to go about it appropriately and respectfully. I have noticed that other people move away from him when he starts talking because they get a whiff of his breath. Even though this is an awkward subject, I know I would want somebody to tell me. What can I say? -- Bad Breath

DEAR BAD BREATH: I consulted with a dentist on this topic a few years ago, and he was adamant that people should discreetly speak up when they notice that someone in their lives has bad breath because it could point to serious illness. Halitosis doesn’t just happen. There is typically a reason -- anything from poor dental hygiene to gum disease, bronchitis, pneumonia, diabetes or liver disease. See this article for more information:

Knowing this, you could speak to your co-worker privately and tell him that you have noticed that he often has a bad odor to his breath, and you weren’t sure if he was aware of it. Tell him that you have learned that halitosis can be a sign of illness, so you wanted to give him the heads up. On a lighter note, you could offer him a mint as a short-term fix.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently met a great guy, but I found out he has two kids. I'm young. I don't feel ready to take on such an important role, but I really like this guy. I know his attention can never be fully on me. I don't want my selfish needs to get in the way, but I know I'll probably feel jealous if I continue to date him. I am unsure if I should tell him how I feel or just leave the situation entirely. -- Splitting Time

DEAR SPLITTING TIME: If you truly believe that you are not ready to be in a relationship that includes children, you should tell this man. It is beyond difficult for him to try to care for his children, do his job, navigate the dynamics with their mother and find time for a relationship. He needs a partner who is willing to be supportive of his children and who wants, eventually, to be part of their lives. If you are sure you aren’t ready for that, tell him. And yes, you probably should walk away, but don’t leave without explaining why. He deserves a partner who is ready for him and all that he brings to the table. You deserve the same thing.

Every relationship requires compromise. If you like each other enough, you may want to try to figure out what that compromise could be. Be honest. If you don’t want to offer what he needs, don’t pretend.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)