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Living With Roommates

You live in close quarters with many other college students, whether it be in an on-campus dorm or off-campus apartment. As
you might have already experienced or seen in your hall, small, interpersonal issues are going to happen. How do you
effectively work through these issues while maintaining respect for others? Some common issues surround the following topics:
  • Physical
    • Things (e.g. borrowing clothes without asking, leaving dirty dishes)
  • Physical Body
    • (e.g. personal space, alone time, hugs)
  • Emotional
    • (e.g. talking about sex, friend vents all the time, talking behind each other’s backs)

Although there may be similar ideas as to how to solve these issues, every person has different boundaries and you must be respectful of these.

HOW TO BE A GOOD ROOMMATE–We often forget that we could be a part of the problem we are experiencing with a roommate. It is important to self-reflect on your own behaviors and values to see if you might need to make a sacrifice in order to create a positive living space. Ask yourself some of these questions:
•  What is the most important value in a friend? In a roommate? In a resident assistant?
•  What values are the same for friends, roommates, and RAs? What are the differences?
•  What other roles do you play besides a roommate?
You play multiple roles in the same setting, so it is natural to feel stress trying to fulfill all those roles. If this causes conflict, try to communicate the role you are acting in.
For example,
  • “I love living with my friend, but as your roommate, it really bothers me when there are clothes all over the floor. I would appreciate it if you can keep your clothes on your side of the room.”
COMMUNICATION STYLES–It is important to have open communication about your boundaries and your values. There are many styles of communication. Here is the link to a quick quiz to identify your communication style:
If you answered…
  • Mostly A – you are a passive communicator. Easy to get along with, but the anger and frustration simmer under the surface, creating stress. Passive communicators may avoid close relationships to protect themselves and their rights because they can’t say no.
  • Mostly B – you are an aggressive communicator. You get what you want, but often alienate others. Aggressive people can be suspicious of others’ motives, which creates stress.
  • Mostly C – you are assertive. You stand up for your rights but are sensitive about others. Assertive communicators are honest and have relaxed, open interpersonal relationships.
How to communicate assertively:
  • Use clear and neutral statements to communicate issues.
  • Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and your boundaries and say “no”.
  • Make no statements clear, short, and unambiguous.
Learn more about Health Communication here.
Be aware of your communication tendencies. It’s a choice.
Also be sure to note other forms of non-verbal communication, like tone and body language.
SELF-CONTROL– Imagine your friend says, “I love how you just wear whatever you want.” How do you feel? If you are having a bad body image day, you might perceive this as an insult. On the other hand, if you are feeling positive about yourself, you perceive this as a compliment. Your perceptions can also influence your actions and behaviors, and how you are feeling affects how you perceive things.
Negative thinking -> Negative perception -> Negative choices
You can only control yourself and your own perceptions and actions. Try positive framing, actively viewing your life in a positive light. This leads to how we receive feed back and criticism from others! Imagine your roommate says: “Hey, your clothes are all over the floor!” How do you immediately want to react? What if they say “I would appreciate it if you could clean up your clothes”?
It is natural to respond initially with anger, hurt, or frustration. Even in the second example, you might be hearing
“You’re a slob” and want to defend yourself. Will continuing this conversation be helpful or hurtful?
Take a day to sit on the feedback and consider it
with a cool mind.
Get defensive and angry that they criticized you.
You might better understand where they are
coming from.
Defending yourself and initiating an argument in which neither of you is happy in the end.
Try to understand the other person might be speaking in anger and don’t take those criticisms to heart. Ridiculing your roommate of something that you don’t like that they do so that you guys are “even”. It is important to remember everybody has different boundaries. You need to respect those boundaries, but it is also your responsibility to communicate your boundaries to others.
You play multiple roles in your living space: roommate, friend, and student. Remember that you have different values for the
different roles. Choose to communicate in an open, neutral, and assertive way. Don’t be afraid to say no. You can only control yourself. Try to keep a positive framing and make positive choices. Take time to reflect before you respond to feedback.