6 Tips for Dealing with your Roommate(s)

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 Dorm life was miserable for me my first semester.  I was placed in a suite style residence hall, so I shared a kitchen, living area, bathroom, and three bedrooms with 5 other girls.  The moment we received our room assignments we had problems…big ones.

We made some pretty unfair and harsh judgments about each other based on only a limited amount of information.  For instance, we decided one girl was weird because she didn’t use Facebook or Myspace.  It never occurred to us to ask her why.  Instead we cold-shouldered her, leaving her out of almost everything.

Throughout the semester we suffered through numerous feuds over rules that we’d once agreed on.  We unintentionally hurt each other’s feelings and marred our memories of college life forever.  So here are some tips to help you avoid my mistakes.

1)      Don’t Prejudge.

Facebook and Twitter are great resources to get to know someone, but they are not flawless.  First you only see what people want you to see on their Facebook Page.  And second just because someone wrote something or chose a specific photo doesn’t mean that thing accurately reflects who they are.  People do stupid things, and you shouldn’t hold something against your roommate before you even get the chance to know them.

2)      Forget Technology

Sometime before you arrive on campus you will communicate with your new roommate.  But instead of talking through email or Facebook pick up the phone and call him or her.  Not only is this more personal but it will also help you to avoid misunderstandings as you negotiate who will bring what.

3)      Remember your Manners

This doesn’t just include please and thank you.  You should always make an effort to be courteous to your roommate.  Introduce them to your friends, warn them when someone is coming over, and every once in a while invite them to dinner in the café or just out for a walk.  You don’t need to be best friends, but you need to be able to communicate, and the best way is to avoid any resentment, is to develop some form of companionship.

4)      Notes Can be Mean

Posting signs or rules about cleaning messes or remembering to do something may seem like the best strategy to communicate about something that annoys you, but it’s not.  Indirect communication can create more conflict than simply talking about it.  Next time you have a problem face it head on.  Just say, “Hey the dorm’s been pretty messy lately, and I’m really swamped.  Could you possibly fit some cleaning time in your schedule?”  If they say no to you in-person they’re probably not going to read the note anyway.

5)      Respect Their Stuff

Every kid has to learn to share.  If you didn’t learn in kindergarten than you probably didn’t have very many friends.  But even though sharing may be the right thing to do, it’s not always the most feasible or practical.  Be sure to ask before you borrow something and consider how you would feel if the situation was reversed.  Did you give them the opportunity to say no?

6)      Take Everything with a Grain of Salt

Your roommate is bound to do something that annoys or frustrates you, whether it’s tapping their pencil, leaving shoes on your side of the room, making inappropriate comments, or leaving an ever present sheen of makeup on everything. That’s what happens when you live in close quarters with someone, even if it’s someone you love dearly. So before you react, before you do something you can’t take back, try to isolate the source of your anger and take any opportunity to get away from it.  A quick work out in the gym can do wonders for your stress levels and may be just the release that you need.

You’re situation is unique to you, and these tips won’t work for everyone.  Personally, I wish I’d handled things differently my first year, but I was able to learn from my mistakes.