Every once in a while, you hear a story about two randomly matched roommates who become best friends. Beating all the odds, they find miles of common ground, discover that they’re actually a lot alike, and become extremely close throughout college.
It’s a nice story, but it sounds like something you’d see on an after-school special.
Realistically, with so many freshmen applying for dorm housing, you’re likely to be matched with someone you don’t have a lot in common with. Many dorm roommates do become friends, but what if you can’t stand yours? Don’t despair, you can still overcome your differences and have a healthy relationship with your roommate.
First Impressions Matter
Like it or not, people are prone to making snap judgments. Whatever impression you give of yourself when you meet your new roommate is likely to stick with him, whether it’s accurate or not.
Even if you’re still a little grumpy from moving in, try to be as amiable and positive as you can through the first few days. Make eye contact, be polite and show an interest in getting to know your new roommate. If he likes you right off the bat, he’ll be more likely to respect your needs and boundaries later on in the relationship.
Roommate Rules and Boundaries
As you and your roommate get to know each other, make sure you set some boundaries. Ask him what his needs are and what he’s accustomed to in a living environment, then share your requirements. Make sure you don’t come across as bossy; calmly and politely explain your ideal living arrangements while also listening to your roommate’s needs.
It’s crucial to get this out of the way early. The longer you wait, the more you risk a possible conflict due to clashing lifestyles. Remember, compromise is essential here. You probably won’t get everything you want, and neither will your roommate, but the important thing is to create a comfortable, healthy living environment for both of you.
Open Communication: The Key to a Successful Roommate Relationship
Talk to your roommate.
We can’t stress this enough. Don’t avoid conversations because you’re afraid that they might be awkward. This doesn’t mean you have to be best buds who share everything, but if your roommate does something inappropriate, you should let him know. If you let problems pile up without addressing them, the relationship will start to sour. Address issues as they come up, and you’ll be able to defuse them more easily.
Finding Solutions to Roommate Conflict
Even in the worst roommate situations, there’s always a way to resolve the conflict. Sometimes this could mean peer mediation to work through the problems. Or it may mean switching roommates.
Whatever the end result, it’s important to remember that there’s always help. If you’ve tried everything and can’t get through to your roommate, try talking to your resident adviser. If your RA can’t help, most residence halls have a conflict-resolution program in place. For example, the Oregon State University’s Student Center for Dispute Resolution uses second-year graduate students to help resolve student conflicts.
Most college websites also have great tips on how to cultivate a successful roommate relationship. Baylor University’s website has an extensive list of common roommate personality types, with information on what to expect and how best to live with each type.
If it gets bad, just remember: You can always live with someone else next year.
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