Roommate communications tips can be a massive help especially when it’s your first time living with someone other than your family. It can be very awkward getting to know a stranger who is now living with you. And this could be made worse if you start on the wrong foot. If not handled properly, you may get into arguments, invade each other’s boundaries, and feel like your home environment is toxic. However, these tips can help you get along better with your roommate and possibly even become best friends!
Challenges of Having a Roommate
Let’s first discuss the challenges that often arise when living with a roommate. Sharing your personal space with someone else may reduce your comfort level, which may make it difficult for you to relax or focus at home. Furthermore, a division of responsibilities in that shared space may prove to be a topic of contention as you and your roommate may have different interpretations of cleanliness and rules. There may also be a disconnect regarding consideration of each other’s boundaries, leading one person to cross the other’s line.
These challenges may seem so daunting that you might be thinking you’d rather just live alone. But there are so many benefits to living with others, including having someone to call in case of emergencies, the motivation to eat healthier, and a different perspective to help you grow as a person. Plus if you want a family of your own one day, this is good practice! So it is worth learning how to make the best of your situation with these roommate communication tips.
1. Discuss Boundaries
The first thing you and your roommate should talk about is its boundaries. According to mhanational.org, a community-based mental health nonprofit, and co-author Paul Chernyak, Licensed Professional Counselor, you need to set up boundaries with your roommate. For example, you should discuss what time you each tend to go to bed to determine when main lights should be off and noise should be kept at a minimum. If you go to bed at different times, you can suggest using a night light or earbuds. Other suggested topics with boundaries that should be discussed include the use of shared space, visitors, cleanliness, and study time.
Once boundaries have been covered, you may want to consider devising a joint roommate agreement, like the one found at etown.edu This can include details from your boundaries discussion as well as other rules like keeping hands off of personal items and no fighting over the use of the TV. Whenever someone breaks a ground rule, you can refer back to the roommate agreement. Just remember to keep in mind that things do change over time, so certain rules may need to be modified or even removed.
Another important part of roommate communication tips is to know when and how to compromise. When possible, strive to reach a middle ground with your roommate so that both of you feel understood and respected. Being cooperative with your roommate is an important step to living in harmony with each other.
2. Share Responsibilities
Any household requires regular upkeep to maintain clean and comfortable conditions. For instance, dishes, dusting, and vacuuming are all chores required to keep common areas habitable. With your roommate, list all relevant cleaning tasks, then lay out a mutually clear plan of who will complete each task and when. Doing this proactively before it becomes a problem is key.
You and your roommate also need to hold each other accountable and ensure you don’t break any dorm rules. These guidelines can vary depending on the college, but they usually include guidelines related to underage drinking, smoking, and quiet hours. Early on, discuss these rules with your roommate as well as how you will each abide by them. Knowing each other’s responsibilities is a good way to keep order between you and your roommate.
3. Establish Rules for Visitors
When a visitor comes to your living space, this can impact you and your roommate. Visitors take up space, use amenities, and make noise. Thus, visitors can often be a point of contention among roommates. To avoid future issues, establish rules for visitors early on.
Perhaps you can suggest that visitors only come when the other person is planning to be away from the home. Or you can agree to spend time with your visitors in your area (like your bedroom) instead of the shared space (i.e. the living room or kitchen). You can also suggest that you promise to ask each other for consent before inviting visitors and that visitors after a certain time are not permitted. While the topic of visitors is one of the harder areas to compromise on, cooperation is easier with these roommate communication tips.
4. Resolve Conflict
Conflict resolution is a vital life skill, and practicing with your roommate can help! Knowing how to peacefully resolve conflict with your roommate can reduce the negative impacts of points of contention. But keep in mind that, while it is good to try to compromise, never do so at such a high level that it becomes a detriment to your needs. For example, you may compromise to clean the bathrooms each week if your roommate agrees to clean the kitchen. But you should not agree to do all of the cleaning every day, just to avoid conflict.
According to the University of Minnesota, some things may occur occasionally that would be better for you to not get upset about. For instance, if your roommate talks too loudly on the phone one morning or the trash does not get taken out one day, it may not be worth an argument. Knowing when to pick your battles is key to living peacefully with your roommate. But if these types of inconveniences start to become more frequent occurrences, be sure to speak up calmly, explaining how those actions negatively affect you and proposing a fair solution. The team at WorldWise Tutoring can also help you improve your conflict resolution skills with our Learning and Life Skills services.
5. Seek Emotional Support
Dealing with roommate problems can be stressful. If you feel like your living situation is affecting your mental health, seek out counseling from your student health center on campus. This will allow you the opportunity to get things off your chest while also gaining the advice of a professional.
If you do not have access to counseling, you can talk with your friends on campus. According to mhanational.org, sharing your struggles with your peers can help you work through your problems, while also strengthening your bond with those friends. They may have great suggestions you haven’t considered, like studying at an outside peaceful location rather than at home.
However, if your experience with your roommate becomes unbearable, then, for the sake of your mental health, you can request a room transfer from your RA or the Office of Residence Life. You can explain how you already tried to discuss boundaries, share responsibilities, establish rules, resolve conflict, and seek emotional support. Show them you have made a real effort and ask what your options are for getting a new roommate. After all, there are many advantages to having a roommate.
Advantages of Having a Roommate
Living with a roommate can be challenging, but there are also many lifelong benefits. Sharing a home with someone other than your family can help you become more accustomed to different people at a deeper level, which can assist with strengthening other relationships. According to Alyssa Walker “Living with someone can give you insight into what you want – and don’t want – in future relationships. Having someone to hang out with and talk to can make a lasting impact on your life.” A roommate will give you more insight into what you’re looking for in your relationships and in your life.
A positive roommate experience can give you someone to lean on. Whenever you’re stressed or having a bad day, it is a relief knowing you have someone there to help. It also feels good to be a supportive and reliable friend to your roommate, as well. You can also have fun together outside the home, study together, visit each other’s hometowns, and more. A roommate can easily become a lifelong friend, especially with these roommate communication tips in play!
You’re bound to have some issues with your roommate, but these roommate communication tips will help you both live in harmony. Just remember to know each other’s boundaries, be upfront and honest, plan accordingly, and strive to resolve your conflicts peacefully. If you do this, then you and your roommate may learn some valuable things from each other. And remember, the tutors are WorldWise Tutoring can help with all aspects of your life, including concerns related to your roommates. Reach out today!
Written by Xavien Timoll