Back to School 2014: Getting Along With Roommates

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You’ve heard people say college will be the best four years of your life. For the most part, they’re right. But when you’ve got issues with your roommates, it can be really hard to enjoy your college experience (yes, studying included). Here are some tips to prevent clashes and maintain good relationships with your roommates:

1. Lay Down Ground Rules ASAP

Everyone has certain preferences for their living spaces. For example, if you’re a clean freak and your roommate is messy, you’re probably going to get really frustrated with them really quickly. This is why you and your roommates should lay down ground rules ASAP so everyone’s on the same page. The Department of Counseling and Psychological Services at the University of Colorado Boulder suggests roommates “define ‘neat'” by agreeing how your space will be kept and what you should do if one of you feels like the other isn’t living up to that agreement. According to U.S. News & World Report, these same rules should be set for things like when it’s okay to listen to music or having people spend the night.

2. If You’re Upset, Say Something

We all need to let off steam every once in a while, but posting a frustrated Vine about your roommate instead of talking to them doesn’t do anyone much good. Amy Zalneraitis, the author of “Room for Improvement: The Post-College Girl’s Guide to Roommate Living,” told MSN, “passive aggressiveness is definitely not the route to take,” when you have a problem with your roommate. Instead, she suggests using the “‘I’ statement” when talking about problems, focusing on the way something makes you feel instead of assigning blame. When David Tuttle, Trinity University’s current Dean of Students, spoke to U.S. World News & Report in 2010, he said, “The first one to know about a roommate conflict should be the roommate. Students often hold onto stuff and blurt it all out when things get to be too much.”

3. Be Nice

It can be really hard to control your temper when you’re angry at your roommate, but being nice and respectful to your roommate goes a long way in reducing tension. Consider the following point made by Brown University’s Health Services:

Remember that most people do not intentionally wish to be inconsiderate of others and what might irritate you may be totally acceptable to another (and vice versa).

Take the time to focus on the idea that people most often aren’t intentionally trying to be mean or disrespectful. When you’re angry or upset, it’s really easy to jump to the conclusion that someone is doing something that bothers you on purpose, which can lead to conflict, or at the very least, resentment. Remembering your roommate is human and treating them with respect can decrease feelings of hostility and make issues easier to resolve. Essentially, remember The Golden Rule: just treat your roommate the way you want them to treat you.

4. Try an Icebreaker

Spending some one-on-one time with your roommate, even if it’s just a chat over coffee, will go a long way in making living together easier, especially if you’ve never met. Taco night anyone? In an interview with Her Campus, Kathryn Williams, the author of “Roomies: Sharing Your Home with Friends, Strangers, and Total Freaks,” said:

If you’re living with a stranger, I think it goes a long way to have an icebreaker outing with that person – lunch, coffee, a party, a movie in the commons room. It just starts things off on a friendly foot, even if you have no intentions of hanging out with that person. He or she is probably just as nervous about living with a stranger as you are.

5. You Don’t Have to Be Best Friends With Your Roommate

While most college freshmen tend to hope they’ll have the kind of bond the roommates in the Vine above have, it’s fine if you and your roommate don’t wind up being best friends. As St. Louis University writes, “Don’t approach the school year with the idea of becoming best friends with your roommate because it might not happen.” The key to a good relationship with your roommate is allowing a “peaceful coexistence,” according to Elon University’s Residence Life. And remember, just because someone may not be your best friend doesn’t mean they’re a bad roommate.