Perhaps the most nerve-wracking thing about moving away to university is having no idea who you will be living with. After a very short ‘personality quiz’ in your residence application, you’re thrown into a small space with a group of strangers. It can be scary, especially when you have roommates like mine, but it’s not impossible to deal with if you have the right skills to avoid conflict.
When I moved into residence I had five other roommates. Having spoken briefly over Facebook, I was excited to move in and meet these seemingly wonderful girls. Before long, however, things started to get heated, to put it mildly.
The combination of hormones, booze and sleep deprivation led to tension. With so many girls living in one space, a clique formed and I wasn’t part of it. Looking back on it, there were a lot of different ways I could have approached the situation to make it better for everyone involved.
The first thing to do when moving in with new roommates is to set out boundaries and establish what pushes your roomies buttons. When I first moved into residence, one of the first things I remember doing with my don was sitting down and talking about what everyone expected from their roommates. When these expectations are out on the table and everyone is aware of them, it makes it that much easier for everyone to avoid doing things that will bother anyone else.
Also, it allows you to feel like everyone is aware of what bothers you. By setting these expectations from the start, it helps to hold everyone accountable for their mess or behavior because they can’t say, “Well I didn’t know that!”
Another important skill to develop is the ability to talk about the problems you’re having in a calm and productive way. Tips from “Street Negotiation: How to Resolve Any Conflict Any Time” by Tristan Loo suggests sitting down with your roommates and discussing the issues you have. Just discussing the problems won’t fix them; you also have to come up with solutions.
Loo suggests grabbing a piece of paper and having everyone make at least one suggestion for a solution. What really makes this work is the ability for everyone to have a say in the fix, but the key is to avoid criticizing ideas that are shared.
The final, and probably most important, skill that will help when dealing with difficult roommates is the ability to curb your emotions and really get down to dealing with the issues. If you need to take the time to cool down, take it! When your emotions are running high the possibility of saying something you don’t really mean is even higher. Deal with issues when you’re calm, collected and able to see past your feelings to what the actual issue is.
Roommates are just a part of being a university student. You will have awesome roommates, and you will undoubtedly have some truly horrible roommates, but if you can find ways that work for dealing with problems it can make living in tight quarters with strangers an enjoyable experience.
The key is communication, and if you can get that down then you’re well on your way to living in harmony, or something like it.