How to Get Along with Your College Roommate
Even if it is mid-way through the school year and things aren’t going well…
Sometimes, despite your best efforts (filling out a pre-college roommate questionnaire, picking a roommate through a friend of a friend, etc.) you still end up with a mismatch. There are no shortages of articles online that explain how to preemptively pick a suitable college roommate, but what about if you’re in the thick of it? School’s already started, or worse, you’re halfway (or more) through the year? What do you do at that point when things are heading south…and fast?
Consider the following when dealing with roommate troubles…
1. It’s Not You, It’s Me: Always, always start by asking the question, “Is it me?” when you’re having any type of relationship problem. In the book, Boundaries in Dating by Henry Cloud, the author sheds light on the fact that in every failed (or struggling) relationship you’ve ever had, the common denominator is you. Think about it…Every single ex-friend can’t be a jerk, even if some of them actually are. Every ex-girlfriend or boyfriend can’t be selfish. Every teacher isn’t unfair. When you’re having trouble, just realize that you have some part in the problem, however big or small. Start there. What can you do to improve the relationship on your end? Even if the person is a total idiot, you’re stuck with them for the time being. Surely there are at least a few things you could do to ease the tension. You can always combine this with other things on this list, but don’t be too quick to brush this suggestion off.
2. Use Your Words (and your indoor voice!): Do you silently stew in your frustrations? Are you more of a screamer? Neither of those methods of communication work, at least not in the long-term. Studies show that calmly expressing your desires (needs, wants, feelings) to the other person, pausing for them to respond, is the healthiest way to effect change in a troubled relationship. So before you pout, seek revenge out of anger, yell, or start in on the silent treatment, try simply asking your roommate for what you want in a calm, respectful way. Then, allow him (or her) to take in what you’ve said, and respond accordingly. If they resist, or still don’t get it, ask what you can do to help achieve this goal.
3. Meet You in the Middle: Compromise. Such a simple word, but so hard to do sometimes! If you like quiet when you study, but your roommate needs music, for example, try wearing headphones while he listens or creating a schedule that is agreeable to both of you. For example, a few days a week he studies somewhere else, and a few days a week, you go to the library or café to get your quiet time in.
4. Everybody Wants to Rule the World: That’s true, isn’t it? But when you have a roommate, neither of you can have complete control over the workings of the dorm room. So, creating a list of rules (which are really just expectations), you can include things on it such as shower schedules, lighting (when they’re on, when they need to stay off), visitors, smelly foods (never OK!), messes, and laundry. You can even add in scheduled “alone” time so you can make a private call or entertain a guest.
You’ll notice I didn’t mention anything on how to get reassigned. I know that’s a real need in certain extreme cases. But one of the reasons you have college roommates is to learn and grow and effectively get along with diverse people in new and, at times, uncomfortable surroundings. We can’t avoid every pain in life. We have to go through certain struggles to come out the other side stronger, smarter, better at communicating, and more equipped to handle life’s tougher situations. That way, when you are in the real world (business/career, etc.) you will be an unstoppable force who can manage, lead, collaborate, and get along with nearly anyone you encounter.