How To

By Stephanie Ila Silver-Silberstein

If you’ve ever come face to face with the relative horror of a large green spinach leaf wedged ever so awkwardly between your friend’s two professionally whitened and otherwise flawless teeth, then you’re well aware of the precarious sociological situation taking form. Even the most delicately delivered, “You know I love you but… you’ve got a bit of green lodged in your pearlies, dearie,” can easily render an unintended flash of humiliation. So in order to preserve everyone’s ego and keep those feathers unfluffed, here are a few tips for those of you who need to know… How to help a friend correct her Faux Pas…or as we at Beauty News School like to call it, “Tiptoeing Tactfully Through.”

1) Do Unto Others: This most basic, tried and true course of action is perhaps your best option when deciding if and how to be the bearer of bad news. Ideally, you would subtly slide your Jimmy choo onto that piece of errant toilet paper stuck to the foot of the clueless woman in front of you and she’d never be any the wiser. But sadly, more often than not, you’ll need to pipe up ‘n say something. To begin with, a bit of introspection: ask yourself if you’d want to know that your behind was exposed for all of the passengers on the M32 to view while hiking up Fifth Avenue. Your answer is most assuredly a resounding… Yes! Next, ask yourself which of the following scenarios is preferable (i.e., less devastating): the woman walking behind you tapping your shoulder to discretely inform you, or your catch a glimpse of your underwear-baring reflection in the mirrored walls of Trump Tower. Your answer is most probably, ‘whichever happens first.’ Even if you are beyond mortified by confronting the reality of your exposed derriere, wouldn’t you nevertheless thank the woman profusely for taking the time to tell you? But of course you would!

2) Ask That Which You Wish To Tell: “Do I have anything in my teeth?” Think about it… what’s the first thing you do when someone asks you to do a stealth tooth check? You scrutinize your own! So go on and flip the script by putting the focus of potential embarrassment on yourself. “Do you think my hair is too shiny (aka ‘greasy’)?” Your companion will more than likely ask herself the same question and fix up her own little issue before it becomes a major mortification. And never underestimate the level of someone else’s self-consciousness or insecurities, so just hint indirectly and spare yourself the indecision over to tell or not to tell.

3) Honestly Consider Your Rapport: If it’s your best friend or boyfriend of the last five years then chances are pretty high that such awkward tidings come flying from your mouth with a teensy bit too much abandon at random intervals. You’re just being honest, you reckon. But if you’re in the beginning stages of a relationship, or if your best friend is too often the recipient of nothing but criticism, be selective about what you chose to point out. For the most part, unconditional love grants you permission to say whatever’s on your mind, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should, and blurting out your pet peeves any old time may cause a rift in your friendship, not to mention that it is just a bit catty. Ask yourself frankly if something bothers you too-too much, and if not – keep a lid on it.

4) Give them something to Chew On (to be utilized only after careful consideration of all options): If your friend always chews like a cow and you can no longer stand to even glance sidelong in her general direction, or the plan of lunching together forces you to pack a rain slicker and face gear, so as not to be pummeled by the food flying out of her chew-and-talk mouth, here are a few suggestions to get her to literally shut it:

Sarcasm – “Dude, this piece of your kebob just lobbed itself onto my plate. I’m sure you want it back!”

Inquisition – “How are you already done with your meal? You haven’t stopped talking for a second! You’re a magician!”

Manipulation – “I don’t mean to interrupt, but this reminds me of when my brother used to build cereal boxes barricades on the dinner table just so he wouldn’t have to watch me slurping spaghetti. Ok, sorry… so you were saying…”

Neuroticism – “I’m sssooo sorry I never mentioned this before, but I have a major pet peeve about people chewing with their mouth open, it just freaks me out – I’m working it through with my therapist, but I she thinks it’ll be a loooong while before I’m cured. So in the meantime, do ya mind?”

Concern – “Please don’t take this the wrong way, but you may want to consider closing your mouth when you chew. It’s fine in front of me ’cause, well… it’s me. But I’m just trying to spare you the vexation of trying to make a good first impression, which we all know isn’t your strongest suit. Can you imagine if some totally hot guy didn’t want to take you out for a second date ’cause it’s like, his major pet peeve? Wouldn’t that be devastating?”

Teach By Example: Option 1 – AFTER demonstrating proper chew-with-your-mouth-closed technique, with your finger in the ‘just 1-minute’ pose, and then fully swallowing: “Whew, ok, now as I was saying….”

Teach By Example: Option 2 (use ONLY in case of emergency!) – WHILE imitating your friend’s disgusting simultaneous chewing and talking habit in the most exaggerated manner possible to elicit a supreme look of horror: “So as I was saying….What? Do I have something on my face? Am I being so gross? Omg, I’m sooo embarrassed! That’s so rude of me – can you ever forgive me?”

5) Put The Onus On Yourself: The best way to diffuse your friend’s inevitable total humiliation is to make yourself look equally bad. I’m hardly suggesting pouring a twin red wine blotch down your new Prada dress if your date is walking around with a Florida-shaped stain on his khakis. But perhaps consider saying something like, “I’m so silly, that happens to me all the time,” thereby putting your messy companion at ease.

6) Be Prepared: Anticipate you and your friends’ potential disasters and awkward situations by planning ahead. It may seem excessive (and/or obsessive), but have mints, floss, Shout Wipes, deodorant stain remover (from www.gal-pal.com), double sided tape, a sewing kit, band-aids, and (most imperatively) tampons on hand at all times. Offering your companion a Tic Tac is far more constructive than saying, “You reek of garlic!”

7) The Bird Flies At Dawn: If you’re wearing some low riders that reveal the majority of your choicest thong, or your eye make-up tends to smear onto your rosy cheeks, request that your trusty companions alert you when these pesky and predictable problems occur. Come up with a fun code word to convey the message. Keep it light and silly (the eagle has landed… wink, or other equally obscure high school sayings). In other words, be proactive and self-aware. Put your companions at ease by giving them permission to correct and ‘embarrass’ you too.

8) Offer An Alternative: Rather than saying to your loving boyfriend, “Please don’t wear that disgusting shirt with the armpit stains ever again,” try pulling a clean shirt from the closet and telling him enthusiastically, “You look fantastic in this black shirt!” Your conviction for the alternative will be earnest enough to disguise your sneaky motive. And not only have you avoided insulting your boyfriend (which you’d pay for later), you’ve made him feel really put together and confident to boot!

9) Consider The Alternatives: I can’t tell you how many times – out of sheer kindness, mind you – I refrained from telling a friend that her outfit was unflattering, or informing a date that his fly was open. Only to ultimately hear like a kick in the teeth: “I can’t believe you didn’t say anything to me and I’ve been walking around like this for hours!” Sometimes, withholding potentially hurtful information can do more harm than good and you can end up with a ticked-off companion. Being too amiable and overly forgiving of people’s bad habits or unfortunate blunders can backfire and leave you feeling like the one with egg on your face!

10) “Take Matters Into Your Own Hands”: You’re at a restaurant you love and your date is a notoriously lame tipper. Why bother pointing it out when you can secretly slide a ten onto the table, once he has turned his back. Sometimes when an otherwise fabulous friend has a reoccurring shortcoming, your best line of defense is a good offense. Just manage the situation and in time you’ll probably find that some of the more subtle approaches above, when properly applied, yield the desired result!

Originally published July 2006
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