To kick off our newest column, “Dear Dixie,” the Dixie Sun News staff put our heads together and talked about some common issues we’ve had since coming to college. This week’s topic comes from our collective mind. For future columns, we’re relying on you. Send us your questions, concerns or rants at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dealing with inconsiderate roommates
You’re out on your own and living with peers for maybe the first time in your life and you’ve realized there’s a learning curve — maybe you don’t quite see eye-to-eye with the people you’ve got to share a house with. Maybe things are generally good, but your personal quirks or habits just don’t mesh with theirs. Maybe you barely coexist and avoid each other altogether. Whatever your circumstances, some general principles are universal:
George Bernard Shaw is quoted as having said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
Passive aggression is your enemy when dealing with your roommates. It just builds up resentment and general bad feelings. Be direct, be clear and be kind. There’s no need to make voicing a concern into a personal attack.
This might sound terrifying if you’re not into confrontation. Try softening the conversation by making dinner or inviting your roommate out for dessert. The thing to remember is people respond better to touchy situations when their mood is good and emotions are calm.
Remember there are two sides to every conflict, and no one is a perfect roommate.
Voice your concerns calmly and kindly, but be sure they are heard.
There are certain inconveniences and quirks that you learn to live with and let go. Choose your battles.
When the issue at hand is big enough to not just let go and forget, compromise is key. Negotiation professionals recommend hearing first and then letting yourself be heard. This lets you come at the issue with all the available information and the ability to propose solutions.
You can’t expect your roommate to be willing to adapt to you if you aren’t willing to adapt to them. Be flexible and willing to propose solutions that have you meeting them halfway.
Ultimately, your greatest tool is to understand one another. You don’t have to like your roommate or be their friend. It helps the situation a lot if you can meld like that, but it’s not always doable.
What you can always do is seek to understand their side of things. With understanding comes a greater capacity for empathy and compromise.
Stephen R. Covey is famous for his self-help and leadership programs. He recommends seeking understanding first, then explaining your side and seeking to be understood. By demonstrating your willingness to be reasonable and reach out, you open the door for your roommate to do the same.
At the end of the day, you have to keep on living with this person. Be an adult, take the reigns in this relationship, and enjoy the benefits of building a community through communication, compromise and understanding.