Living with a roommate is not easy. Other than trying to adjust to the new life away from home, you also need to work on accommodating your new friend.
The possibility of getting on one another's nerves is inevitable, especially when coming from different backgrounds and holding divergent views. What one may perceive to be right and justified may not be for another.
So, if you’re starting your freshman year, here’s a useful article to help you improve roommate communication and get along with them.
How to Improve Roommate Communication
The list of conflicts you and your roommate may have is endless. But no matter how complicated the situation is, you can always prevent conflicts from getting out of control.
Here are some tips to help you maintain a good relationship with your roommate.
Establish ground rules
Laying down the expectations and guidelines regarding living together is the first thing to do immediately after getting to know one another. Such rules and guidelines act as non-human mediators when conflicts happen.
While establishing rules and guidelines, don't just verbalize them, but put them in writing. Draft a roommate agreement and stick it in a place where both you and your roommate can see it. This agreement should have the basic rules that you should follow.
The most important things to discuss are cleaning responsibilities, sharing communal items, private time or quiet hours, noise, and pet responsibilities.
Remember to be flexible when writing these rules. For example, if your roommate doesn't feel comfortable with some rules, be ready to compromise but prioritize what you think would be more comfortable for you.
Solve every disagreement respectfully
Even after establishing ground rules, sometimes disagreement will still occur. For example, a minor problem such as your roommate leaving the bed unmade each morning might be ignored the first time. But if it becomes a continuous occurrence and you don't communicate your dislike for it, the roommate may think you are comfortable with it.
Don't assume a problem and let it intensify. Instead, let your roommate be aware of the issue. As you do so, mind your language or the tone to use so as not to come off sarcastic and leave your roommate offended.
For example, if your roommate keeps their dirty clothes under the bed, just explain how you feel politely and learn to listen to what your roommate also brings up. Don't shout or use derogatory terms or comments.
Learn to communicate your concerns openly
As you continue living together, there are certain behaviors that your roommate may show that you may find irritating or offensive. For example, playing loud music when trying to sleep, loud voice calls and video chats with family when studying, or being irresponsible. These may not have been tackled in your roommate's communication agreement.
Rather than a complaint to other people about them, call your roommate for a candid talk to address them. Sometimes, your roommate may not be aware that their actions offend you, and they may think you are comfortable with it if you cannot communicate your concerns. Likewise, when your roommate comes to you to complain about something they find offensive in you, don't be defensive, but learn to fix the problem.
Here’s a video by TED Ed on how miscommunication happens and what you can do to avoid it
Respect your roommate's opinions and ideas
One of the most positive things about having a roommate is learning more about them, especially if you are from a different country. There are some cultural differences or political differences that the two of you may hold.
You can learn about your different cultures, but don't look down upon your roommate's culture or tradition. Neither should you call them primitive if they still prefer a traditional way of living. Instead, respect where they come from. Be it the food they eat, the language they speak, or the music they listen to.
A more sensitive matter is politics. We know how the argument for or against a political party or candidate can be very heated. So if your opinion of a political party or person will affect your roommate, don't express them.
Avoid talking behind their back
Let's face it: nobody enjoys being talked about. So if you want to complain about your roommate or vent something bad that they do, don't say it to your friends or classmates. Chances are those friends may also be within the circle of friends your roommate hangs with and ends up telling them.
Gossiping or talking behind your roommate's back or spoiling their name, such as revealing intimate secrets they have shared with you or problems they have, can severely damage the relationship you have with your roommate.
This also helps you protect your mental health.
Be open to change and new ideas
As the semester progresses, there is a lot that will change or for both of you. For example, you may be short of finances and share things you vowed not to share. In addition, your roommate may face a problem that may require your support.
This is the moment to be flexible in your rules or lay down new rules to help you get along well. If you do a lot together, write about the activities and the rules and procedures governing your actions.
Respect your roommate's belongings
Every person has an item or possession that is so dear to them—one that they would not want to share with another person. It can be earrings, necklaces, dresses, or electronics.
No matter how tempting it is to use your roommate's belongings as your own, avoid it, especially when, your roommate is not around.
For example, don't assume that your roommate won't mind if you wear their new sports shoes for a soccer game or borrow their book without asking them. You risk getting into your roommate's bad books. Instead, the best approach is to ask your roommate if you can borrow the item, and if they refuse, don't feel offended.
Respect your roommate's personal space
If you are taking different courses, you will most often have different schedules. As a result, it is prudent to share and respect each other's schedules. This makes it easier to plan your meetings or activities with your friends with ease.
If your roommate is revising for an important exam, you probably want to give them space to concentrate and not invite friends over for a party.
With finances, don't be a burden to your roommate. If you have agreed to split the bills fifty-fifty, settle your bills, even if your roommate comes from a well-to-do family. Don't assume that they should be the ones settling the bills.
Let everyone set reminders on when they should settle their bills. Besides, don't borrow money from your roommate and fail to repay.
Lastly, respect your roommate's personal space. When your roommate doesn't feel like talking, they have locked themselves in their room or have their headphones on, don't take it personally, but let them enjoy their quietude.
Discuss chores and responsibilities
Chores. This is one of the major reasons roommates fight. For some people, keeping the house or things clean can be difficult. Your roommate may not have the same urge to clean as you.
To prevent arguments, have something like a chore chart that outlines responsibilities.
Share emergency information with your roommate
There is a lot happening around us right now, and depending on where you will stay, calamity may strike any moment. Who should be contacted when you are unconscious or admitted to the hospital? Most probably, it should be your roommate, but who should your roommate call?
Ensure your roommate has contact information on how to reach your family. Besides, let them be aware of any serious conditions that you may have. For example, if you are allergic or have diabetes, let them know how to help or do first aid in case of a serious attack.
If you know you will share a room with someone else this semester, know that there are unique challenges you will face.
Luckily, with the above roommate communication tips, you should eliminate many of the issues that may arise to maintain cordial relations and enjoy what college life offers.
Last edit at Jul 27 2023