By Maui V. Reyes for Yahoo! Southeast Asia
Ever felt uncomfortable telling someone that they have body odor? What's the proper way to react when you accidentally asked a neighbor when her baby's due, only to find out that she's not even expecting?
Awkward moments like these are bound to happen. Unfortunately, the chances of the earth opening up to swallow you alive are slim to none. Most of the time, we just have to face the situation head on, and learn from it. Here are some tips on how to handle "face palming" moments without having to, well, face palm.
Letting someone know he has body odor/bad breath/an inappropriate wardrobe
It's one thing to sit next to someone with B.O. on the bus. It's another to have to deal with said person several hours a day. So how exactly do you let that person know that he or she stinks—literally?
Commenting on someone's hygiene or choice of wardrobe can be a bit tricky—so think long and hard before opening your mouth. For one, determine if the situation is really affecting your work. If, say, your group mate's bad breath isn't keeping you from finishing those term papers, then it may just be a slight inconvenience that you should learn to live with. Also try to see if there's a certain pattern. If the odor came up once or twice, then it was probably just a phase. If she comes in every day smelling like that, then it's time for a little one-on-one.
You may have heard advice that says you ought to give the person a bar of soap as a "present", or toss a fresh-smelling deodorant her way ("I got it as a freebie but don't need it, you can have it if you want!"). These "subtle" techniques are just ways to skirt around the issue, and your friend will either miss the point or be very much insulted by the gesture. Approach the smelly issue head-on, and speak up.
That said, make sure you talk to her in a private setting. Be clear and concise, without being rude or harsh. You want to get the point across, not make her feel like an inadequate human being. At the same time, don't sugarcoat your words. While you shouldn't tell her that she "reeks like garbage left to rot under the sun for weeks," using words like "it's not that bad" might make her think your complaint isn't that serious.
Accepting a compliment
You've been running five times a week, eating healthy, and managed to squeeze into your skinny jeans without any effort at all. When you bump into an acquaintance you haven't seen in years, she showers you with compliments on how slim you've become, how your skin is glowing, and how you should totally try out for one of those bikini beach body contests. How do you respond?
Depending on how your mind works, you could either think her compliment is sincere, or that she's just playing you (especially if you didn't slim down that much). In any case, the best way to respond to compliments (whether sincere or not) is to say a simple, genuine "thank you." Look the person in the eye when you do it, then try to divert the conversation to something related to the topic, like "thanks, I've been trying to slim down. But look at you! You look fabulous! What workout or diet have you been on?"
No one really thinks about it, but offering your condolences can be tricky. That's because you don't want to appear too contrived, nor do you want to it to seem like you really don't care. There's also the fine line between being concerned and being obtrusive.
In instances like this, the key once again is to keep it simple. Approach the person and say, "I heard what happened. My condolences to you and your family." Avoid spewing out clichés like, "he lived a good life," or, "it's better to rest in peace than continue suffering." The person knows all this already, and doesn't need Oprah's mini-me to douse him with said clichés. It's okay to ask about funeral arrangements, and if the family is open to visitors at the wake (of course, don't ask if you don't plan to drop by and pay your respects). Also, think twice before saying things like, "I'm here if you need me," if you don't really plan on being on-call 24/7.
You accidentally insult someone
While at a lunch with co-workers (and your boss), you make fun of the name "Antonio", only to find out that your boss's real name is, well, Antonio. Or you give your congratulations to an acquaintance you see in the mall about her baby—only, she's not pregnant.
We've all been guilty of having "foot-in-mouth" disease, and the best way to rebound from such a situation is to dish out some self-deprecating humor. Saying something like, "Really? My real name is Dolores, and I hate it," could soften the blow.
If you find yourself in a situation that you think a joke can't fix, don't try to weasel your way out of it by coming up with silly excuses. It will only magnify the situation, and you'll come out as a liar trying to save face. Just be honest and apologize. A simple "I'm so sorry, I had no idea, that was very rude of me," will be very much appreciated.