When Sensibilities On Scents Diverge

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Adapted from Lily Garcia's twice-monthly online discussion.

Washington : I need help. How do you tell an intern (young undergrad) that she wears way too much perfume? I don't want her to feel awkward, but everyone notices that her scent is overpowering.

If she does not report to you, bring the matter to the attention of her manager. If she does report to you, tell her that you, personally, are feeling overpowered by the smell of her perfume.

Do not bring up the feelings of others in the office, or you will risk making her defensive. Rather, tell her you have a special sensitivity to fragrances and ask if she would not mind accommodating you by toning it down. Tell her you regret making her feel uncomfortable in any way and thank her for her openness to your request.

Tell her you have a special sensitivity to fragrances: Just curious, why does it help to lie? Why not say, "I don't think I'm especially sensitive, but it is bothering me?"

It helps to make the listener receptive to your message if you do a good job of taking personal responsibility for your feelings.

Tell her you have a special sensitivity to fragrances: That just makes people think I'm the freak, not the perfume overdoser. I've heard people say things like, "If she has special allergies, SHE should have to adapt." No, the point is it's inappropriate choice by the perfume wearer. Why should the manager pose it in an apologetic tone? It's an old brainwashing that women can't be strong, that they should apologize for asking for things.

Interesting. I was not assuming that you were a woman.

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