Kindergarten Rules: Learning to Play Nice with RoommatesMarch 9, 2014
Last time we talked about the options for choosing (or being assigned) a roommate. I had mentioned communication being key to the roommate relationship, regardless of your situation, and it’s true. Any good relationship is filled with communication. After all, we don’t want you to pop like a bottle of shaken soda-pop (there, no one can complain that I used the “wrong” term).
Anyway, regardless where you look online, everyone seems to have some pretty sage advice on how to be a successful roommate. In fact, much of what our ResLife website and U.S. News has to say already echo some of the things I mentioned about being roommates with existing friends. But seriously, there are even other bloggers writing about what makes a good roommate—that’s just one, but a Google search of “tips for roommates to get along” will give you plenty of reading material.
Since you’re already here, though, here’s my bullet list from personal roommate situations and working as someone who listened to roommate situations:
- Communicate. Oh come on, you knew it was coming. But seriously, this is key. Talk about the roommate agreement. You may not know what to include that first week, but that’s why you revisit it and update it. Also, it’s better to not be an exploding bottle or feel like you’re talking behind your roommate’s back all the time. If you need help starting a tough conversation, talk with your Student Advisor. That’s part of why they’re there.
- Share your space. This isn’t your parent’s house, and this isn’t your sibling (in 99% of the cases). You technically only have half a room (and, let’s be honest, college dorm rooms aren’t known for being luxuriously spacious). There is plenty of space for a lot of things, but you are not moving out of your parent’s house yet and you do have another person living in that space. Keep your dirty clothes in a hamper, keep the space looking at least presentable so you aren’t embarrassed to have friends over, work out what you can share ahead of time (TV, microwave, minifridge) and how you want to decorate. Don’t overstuff your room or you may develop claustrophobia.
- Be courteous. Some of the biggest conflicts I’ve seen and personally experienced deal with roommates just not being conscious of the other person in the space. Again, this isn’t your sibling and they may not be your friend (and if they are, double shame on you); if they’re asleep when you get in at night, don’t wake them up. (In fact, that’s the perfect time to use a desk lamp!) If they’re kind of messy and you want to bring friends over, have a calm and respectful conversation about cleanliness. Remember, you don’t have to like each other, but you are living together.
- Spend time together.You’re living with this person for about 9 months, you might as well get to know them. My roommate sophomore year and I bonded over music (in particular, musicals and Glee), though that didn’t mean we were best buddies. You don’t have to be best friends, but you might as well try to enjoy each other’s company.
- Be willing to say no. Just because their significant other is coming to town doesn’t mean he/she has to stay in your room. Or if you really don’t want to lend your roommate an outfit for an event, you don’t have to. Saying no is one of the best things you can learn to do in college (not just to your roommate, but to any number of things) because it means you’re learning your limits and setting your boundaries. Boundaries are very important for healthy relationships and just for your overall sanity. Just make sure you set them firmly and respectfully.
- Compromise. It really isn’t a dirty word. Relationships are about the give and take. Just don’t be the one always taking or the one always giving (that’s where saying no comes in handy). Stick up for yourself, but also be willing to bend. You’re roommates, not Lord and servant.
Feel free to peruse other opinions. These are just my top 6 things to remember when starting to room with someone else, especially if you’ve always had your own room or are an only child—since the adjustment may not be as natural for you. Also remember every relationship is different and has different needs, so be flexible. As always, if it really isn’t working out, it’s not like you’re stuck with that person forever; do at least put forth the effort to try, though.
All the best!