Don’t kill your roommates

Emily Barske

We’ve all heard the horror stories where someone had a horrible experience with his or her roommate. Living with a roommate can either turn into making a new friend or a new enemy. Regardless of whether you and your roommate see eye-to-eye on everything, there are still things you can do to get along with each other.

Learning to deal with a roommate will involve communication, compromise and understanding, and those are all things that will serve us later in life. Who knows, you might also make a lifelong friend.

Moving in might be the scariest thing about your new roommate experience. You may not know anything about them or how well you’ll get along, but don’t fret. No matter if your roommate is someone you know well already or someone you’ve never seen in your life, there are a few things that need to be addressed right off the bat.

Get to know them. Ask them about their hobbies and interests — you might find you have a lot of things in common or that you could learn something new from them.

Because you will be living with them, the most important thing you can find out from the beginning is about their lifestyle. Your lifestyles might be very similar or very different, but together you need to come up with a plan that makes you both happy either way.

“Lifestyle could be an important thing to discuss,” said Tiffany Iskander, staff psychologist for Student Counseling Service. “For example, are you an early bird or night owl, are you a heavy or light sleeper, do you like spaces to be very tidy or are you OK with some disorganization.”

Around the time of move in, you’ll also go over your roommate agreement. Aliza Rosenthal, Upper Friley Hall director, stressed the importance of taking the agreement seriously because you may need to refer to it if a conflict comes up. It may be the only written statement that you will have that outlines the rules of your room.

“The roommate agreement is one of the first things you fill out when you move in, and this is a great way to document the agreements you made at the beginning of the semester,” Rosenthal said. “It will also give you a starting point to talk about what’s changed and why the agreement may not be working anymore.”

Communicate with your roommate to prevent problems or to help solve them. If you tell your roommate that something is bothering you from the beginning, it can keep the problem from escalating. Iskander noted that the first step toward solving a conflict would be to talk to the roommate and, if necessary, get a community adviser involved to help. CAs or hall directors can help make sure that both parties have an understanding of the other’s side of the story.

Rosenthal mentioned that sometimes students try to communicate with their roommate about a problem via text or leaving a note, which she said is often unsuccessful. Texts and notes can be perceived to mean something very different than what the person writing the message intended. The best method is just to discuss the issue face-to-face. Likewise, face-to-face discussions are a good way to prepare for future workplace or relationship issues.

If discussing the problem with a roommate doesn’t help, there are many other resources to which a student can turn. Talk to your CA and hall director because their job is to make sure students feel at home in their on-campus housing. You can also use Student Counseling Service to help you talk through your problems and find a solution that works for you.

Don’t forget there are two sides to every issue. Try and understand why your roommate may be doing something that bothers you. If you show your roommate that you understand, he or she will probably return the favor. Keep in mind that some of your habits may be bugging your roommate. No one is perfect or thinks in the same way, so don’t hold your roommate to the standards of your beliefs. Try to accept him or her and work on making the living arrangement the best that it can be.

“Students can try and be open to the differences between themselves and their roommate,” Iskander said. “They can try and take the other person’s perspective, which can be a very important aspect of getting along.”

Getting along with a roommate might be easy or incredibly hard. It takes work, but remember that it’s not the end of the world if he or she isn’t your best friend. Make the most of it because you can probably learn something from living with him or her and become a better person because of it.