Living with a roommate or housemate can be particularly challenging at times, since each person has his own habits, which somebody else may find bothersome. So if you’re going to live with a roommate, especially for an extended period of time, then it’s important to try to find common ground, since otherwise things can become aggravating. No matter how calm you are or how good your ‘people skills’ tend to be, an annoying, stubborn or difficult roommate can really get on your nerves. With that in mind, here are seven reliable tips to help you deal with an unfriendly roommate:
1. Discuss Your Expectations From Day One
We all know that it’s easier and better to prevent than to treat, and this principle applies to roommates – why suffer through an argument if you can prevent it from arising in the first place? It’s important to talk about your expectations from the beginning. How will the two of you deal with intimate visits? How will you agree to use the common rooms, such as the bathroom or the kitchen? What about noise? How will you share the rent and the bills? All of these issues are important, and they are better discussed face-to-face rather than via email, text messages or post-it notes. Make sure to clearly state your expectations for your roommate, and to listen to his or her expectations at the same time – keep in mind that having a roommate is a two-way street. Also, many people would agree that posting a whiteboard with the ‘house rules’ on it can help you remember each other’s expectations and to avoid running afoul of them.
2. Discuss What Bothers You and Help Your Roommate Change
This is a complicated problem – although you may dislike your roommate’s actions or behavior and you may not always agree with their way of thinking, you can help him or her change. For example, if you’ve decided to replace all your incandescent lightbulbs in with new LED bulbs (which are more expensive), yet your roommate doesn’t want to pay the extra money, you have two options: you can either sit down and try to explain to him or her that there will be a fast return on the investment, since the electricity bills will drop instantly, or you can simply offer to pay for the bulbs yourself. The same principles apply to a variety of other situations, as long as you know how to discuss the problem and how to present the advantages of taking a certain measure.
3. Avoid Playing Into Passive-Aggressive Games
Difficult roommates are difficult for a reason – they may be wild, or they may simply be stubborn and refuse any type of communication. On the other hand, if your roommate is the passive-aggressive type that leaves threats or hostile post-it notes on the fridge, then try to refrain from responding to this attitude, since it will only make things worse. The sole purpose of these passive-aggressive games, which are surprisingly common, is to make you ‘a player in the game’ and then twist your words and actions in such a way that you’ll be the one to blame. If there is something you’d like to say to your roommate, make sure to do it directly. ‘Note wars’ will do neither of you any good – on the contrary, they will only waste time and fray nerves.
4. Set Clear Ground Rules
Telling your roommate what your expectations are and setting clear ground rules may sound the same, but these are actually two different issues. The first one is based on the common sense of your roommate, who should understand and respect your privacy, your habits and your overall way of living. However, sometimes it’s better to clearly outline what your pet peeves are from the beginning. For instance, you can set a ground rule that neither of you is allowed to play loud computer games or listen to music when the other one is reading or working. And make sure to discuss other things, too – if you don’t want your partner to drink alcohol or smoke when you’re around, make sure to clearly say that! You can, for instance, impose a ‘smoke on the balcony only’ rule that both of you will respect.
5. Communication Is Key
Regardless of what bothers you about your roommate, it is crucial to discuss it and try solving it in a friendly, polite and civilized manner. Whether your roommate makes noise when you’re trying to do your homework or snores and keeps you up at night, make sure to inform him or her and to try to find a mutually beneficial solution to the problem. Remember to keep calm and be polite – in the end, you know what they say, ‘you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.’ Always be flexible and willing to make a compromise, if that is what it takes to make life easier for both of you.
6. Talk to Your Resident Assistant
If you’ve tried everything – from setting rules to making a compromise to open discussions – yet nothing seems to work and your roommate is still getting on your nerves, another option is talking to your resident assistant if you live in a dormitory. The RA can help you reach an agreement or find a new roommate, if that is the ultimate solution. However, it is a matter of common sense and courtesy to not contact the RA before having a ‘grown-up talk’ with your roommate first.
If you or your RA cannot come up with a viable solution or find a replacement for your current roommate, then the last resort is to simply move out of the room. Sometimes it is important to know when you need to quit and start looking for housing somewhere else, instead of having to cope with something that is continually irritating or frustrating.