Q: I work in an office that requires meeting over lunch at least twice a week. Recently, I can’t help but notice my friend, and coworker, chewing her food with her mouth wide open. I want to say something, but I don’t want to offend her. Should I mind my own business?
A: You say she’s a “friend”, as well as a colleague, therefore you must have a closer relationship with her than 9-5. I am sure your motives are sincere and I think it would be a kind, and polite gesture to inform her of a bad habit she probably isn’t even aware she is committing. Do it privately, and diplomatically. Say something like, “Liz, I have noticed the past few times we have eaten out together you have unintentionally been chewing with your mouth open. I’m giving you a heads up because I know you’d want to know before others start to notice.” Let her respond, and hopefully thank you for your candor. Then, move on to another topic, something positive and upbeat.
Here are a few more tips on how to politely tell someone something is amiss:
- Do tell them in private. No one wants to be told they have food in their teeth in front of a potential client.
- Don’t allow them to embarrass themselves. If you can intervene with a co-worker or friend who has bad breath, or their zipper down, do so quickly and quietly.
- Do say, “I know you would want to know.” This statement confirms your intentions are to help, not harm.
- Don’t take part in gossip. If someone else’s habit is cause for negative conversation, or a target of a joke, don’t laugh or participate. Be a leader, not a follower and show respect to your coworker by assisting with the issue, and not escalating the situation.
If you enjoyed this post, you may also like The Business Lunch: 7 Simple Dining Tips You Can’t Afford to Skip or University Manners: Dining Etiquette and the Second Interview.