College is an amazing time when students grow as individuals and meet new people. They learn volumes about being successful adults. These lessons are sometimes offered in a lecture hall, but they can also be found outside the classroom walls. For some students, this may be their first time sharing a room with another person.
Living with siblings can be challenging at times, but when you room with a classmate, things can be even trickier. Odds are, you will be coming from different backgrounds, with different expectations and standards. However, if approached correctly, living with a roommate can be a wonderful experience. In order to avoid roommate conflict, here are three easy steps you can take to improve your living arrangement:
1. Be honest about your concerns.
You should always be up front with your roommate. One of the first mistakes that college students often make is failing to be honest with their roommates, either out of fear of causing tension or the desire to appear flexible and undemanding. Unfortunately, when you live in close quarters with someone, this tactic will inevitably backfire.
In time, buried tensions will rise to the surface, often at the worst moment. When you are both stressed and emotionally vulnerable, it is much harder to address the situation in a calm, reasonable manner. It is better to deal with problems before they get out of hand. As uncomfortable as it might be for you to ask your roommate to stop eating your food or to respect your bedtime, doing so will help foster a more open relationship.
Always be polite and phrase your suggestions so that they are not directly attacking your roommate. For example, if you want your roommate to start doing his or her dishes, phrase your request so that it focuses on modifying the behavior instead of critiquing your roommate's personality. Rather than saying "You are such a slob," you might suggest "Would you mind doing your dishes so the kitchen doesn't get too cluttered?" Be candid and respectful, and you will avoid future conflict.
2. Set ground rules.
It's a fact of life: ground rules make living with a roommate easier. On day one, discuss your expectations and set up rules for your dorm or apartment. Here are a few questions you might want to answer:
• Who is going to do the dishes and when?
• How will you divvy up the chores?
• What time do you want to designate as quiet time, when no one plays loud music or movies so you can both study/sleep?
• Will you share food or have your own designated section of the fridge or cupboard?
If one of you brings over your significant other, what are the rules regarding public displays of affection? How can the couple have their privacy without inconveniencing the other roommate?
Figure out the rules and agree to them before any problems arise. Do it in the beginning so that no one feels tricked later. You can always amend the rules in the future, as long as you both approve of the amendments. It is also a good idea to have a written copy of the rules that you and your roommate have both signed off on. This way, if a conflict comes up, you can always pull out the rules and see what you both had agreed upon.
3. Share your pet peeves.
Everyone has them, and when you live with a roommate, pet peeves will factor into your relationship. Therefore, you should enter into a rooming situation with a good understanding of each other's likes, dislikes, and personality quirks. To avoid misunderstandings and fighting, roommates need to know what things rub each other the wrong way. During this conversation, it is important to be honest about what accommodations you might need from your roommate. However, you should also be reasonable; it is not fair to expect your roommate to completely change their behavior to suit you.
That being said, most pet peeves are minor (hence their name). They are usually easy to accommodate, as long as you know about them. For example, if you do not like for people to handle your belongings, your roommate can let you know when one of your things needs to be moved. That way, you can take care of it yourself. The clutter is tidied and no one's space is invaded.
It is important to choose your battles wisely, otherwise you could end up in a near-constant state of conflict. It is good to be up front about your pet peeves, since your roommate will discover them eventually, even if you try to hide them. With some teamwork and creative problem solving, you should be able to accommodate each other's personal preferences. However, you should never sacrifice your relationship because of minor predilections or behavioral quirks. Pick which peeves are the most important to you, and be willing to give ground when necessary for the sake of your relationship.
Living with a roommate requires flexibility and no small amount of patience. You have to strike a balance between sticking up for yourself and letting small annoyances go. Although there are some challenges to living with a roommate, the opportunities greatly outweigh the potential downsides. Roommates can broaden your horizons and teach you how to respectfully interact with others. As long as you are honest, set ground rules, and make an effort to accommodate each other, living with a roommate can be an invaluable experience.
Credits: Valerie Hoffman