Roommate relationships can be hard to navigate. After all, they’re invading your space, right? But thinking of roommates as intruders won’t help you. Instead, try to make friends with them, not enemies.
Set Room Rules
You might question the need for room rules, but setting expectations from the start will help avoid misunderstandings between you and your roommates. Music volume, room temperature, visitors, decorations, sharing food and clothes—these and many other things will potentially cause conflict.
Creating rules together will ensure dialogue. And by agreeing to follow room rules, you’ll develop a relationship of trust and respect.
However, Dr. Pearson Johnson, one of the counselors at the Student Care Office, suggested that “expectations should always be open to clarification or adjustment.”
Get to Know Your Roommates
Chatting doesn’t come naturally to many people, but talking is essential if you want to get to know your roommates. So take the first step and initiate a conversation.
Conversations with your roommates don’t have to be anything extraordinary at first. Johnson said that it’s important to get to know the context of your roommates because that will help to know them better on a personal level.
Sharing about yourself—your hobbies and interests, passions and dreams—will open up the floor for discussion on similar topics. Maybe you’ll be very similar or very different. But either way, showing interest in your roommates’ personal lives will go a long way.
Respect Your Roommates
Few things bother people more than being disrespected. You and your roommates will disagree on many things, and that’s normal. But you need respect to live in harmony.
Even if it’s hard for you, make an effort to respect your roommates’ opinions, positions, and personal preferences. Find out what bothers them and don’t do it.
If you know one of your roommates can’t eat sugar because of medical reasons, then don’t eat donuts in front of them. If you know your other roommate doesn’t like being interrupted when they’re studying, then don’t distract them.
In short, follow the golden rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Luke 6:31).
My room, my sink, my door—scratch “my” from your vocabulary and replace it with “our.” Your room isn’t only yours anymore.
Because it’s also your roommates’ room, you need to compromise. In the context of sharing a room, you’ll often have to work together to arrive at a point of mutual agreement. Johnson recommended involving a mediator. “Another friend can listen to the situation and help you see where your blind spots or prejudices are,” he said.
Growing up with a large room all to myself, compromising was new to me. My very first semester, my roommate and I had a rough time compromising, but as time went on, things started working out.
So collaborate with your roommate. Don’t be selfish, and be willing to share and give up certain things. After all, compromising is an art.
I still remember when my first roommate would leave his stinky, sweaty clothes all over the floor. In my frustration, I complained. I told everyone else but my roommate. The result? An unsolved problem, and an annoyed me.
Approach your roommates in humility (because we’re all imperfect) and show them grace. According to Johnson, “An attitude of humility, knowing you have your own struggles, goes a long way in resolving a conflict with a roommate.”
Don’t ignore problems, and don’t let your frustration grow either. Keep the dialogue going, and by doing so, avoid bitterness and anger. Just as Ephesians 4:32 says, learn to be kind and forgiving.
Although you share a room you might not be getting to know your roommates. Some barely see each other because of busy schedules. Others don’t go beyond small talk because they’re shy and easily intimidated by new people.
Having occasional roommate outings can help you get to know your roommates better. Away from the room, in “neutral territory,” you can bond over a meal, a cup of coffee, or even a time of prayer and Bible study.
Take advantage of opportunities for bonding moments. Before you know it, you’ll be getting along a lot better with your roommate.
Building a good relationship with your roommates takes a lot of effort. However, becoming friends with your roommates will make college more enjoyable and give you opportunities for personal and spiritual growth.