Learning to live together with your roommate(s) is one of the most important lessons that you may learn during your first year of college. Whether you know each other or not, here are a few basic tips that will help you along the way!
Communicate. This is the key to any successful roommate relationship! The person you’re sharing a room with can’t read your mind. So if something is bothering you, speak up! In return, you can’t read your roommate’s mind. You can’t be sure what’s going to annoy them, so ask before you act. This advice probably seems pretty basic. However, if you’re used to having your own room you might have to really remind yourself to communicate with a roommate!
Listen. No roommate is perfect, and that includes YOU. If your roommate approaches you about something, don’t get upset or immediately defensive. Listen to what they have to say, and don’t interrupt them. There’s no need to turn your dorm room into the set of the Jerry Springer Show! You’ll get the opportunity to present your side of the issue. It’s not always easy to confront your roommate about something, so you should respect that they cared enough to talk to you about it.
Start a conversation, not an argument. If you do need to talk to your roommate about something, be sure to choose your words and tone of voice wisely. “I cannot believe you freaking used my computer!“ What do you think would happen if someone started a conversation like this with you? You’d probably be upset that this person is yelling at you and it might start a fight. However, something like this would probably go over a lot better: “Hey, I noticed you used my computer. It was a graduation present and I’m a little overprotective- so I’d really appreciate it if you wouldn’t use it.” If something is really bothering you, take the time to cool down before you fly off the handle. You’ll have a much more productive conversation with your roommate, and there will be a lot less hurt feelings and/or yelling!
If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. At some point this year, you will be tempted to gossip about your roommate to your buddies down the hall. You also might be tempted to update your status on Facebook or IM'ing to let everyone know how “terrible” your roommate is. DON’T DO IT! There’s a very good chance that your roommate will find out. How upset would you be if your roommate said something hurtful behind your back—especially if they had never mentioned it to you? Gossiping may seem like more fun, but venting is only a short term fix. In the long run,you should take the kinder and more mature route and actually talk to your roommate about it. It’s not always easy to call someone out on an annoying habit, but at least it’s taking steps to resolve the issue.
Assume good intentions. You probably have an annoying habit—ask your family or close friends. It’s also pretty likely that your roommate will do something that annoys you. Maybe they turn on the Food Network every time you want to study. Don’t make a mistake and assume that they are doing that just to bother you, ask them about it! Maybe they just really enjoy the “Cupcake Wars.” (And come on, who doesn’t love that show?) When something is bothering you about your roommate you have two options. You can keep it to yourself and simmer in resentment until you blow up at them. The option we suggest is to politely ask them what about what they’re doing that is annoying you. Asking these questions can seem challenging, but will help you move forward in your roommate relationship!
Find something that you can like or respect about your roommate. Get beyond appearances or stereotypes and get to know the person (or people) you are sharing your space with. There isn’t a person on earth who doesn’t have something interesting about them. Talk to them and find out what it is! If you can’t get past your initial impressions of someone, then you are probably missing out on getting to know someone who is pretty cool.
Be familiar with the Guest Policy. You can’t have an overnight guest without advance permission from all of your roommates. Even though feel you have a right to have your guests over, it’s your roommates’ room too. If they aren’t comfortable with the situation, you need to respect their wishes—and they must do the same for you.
Have FUN with the situation! If you put positive energy into the relationship with your roommate, chances are that something good will come out of it. Don’t look at having a roommate as a “problem.” It’s an opportunity to learn about yourself- and maybe you’ll even make a friend or two in the process!
Ask for help. Handling roommate conflicts can be tough, which is why UNH trains our RAs and Hall Directors in conflict mediation. If you’re having an issue with your roommate that you just can’t seem to resolve, you can always talk to them. Your RA or Hall Director can give you advice on how to talk to your roommate, or they can help mediate a conversation between you.