Endicott College Tips for Living with Roommates Living with someone else is an art, no matter who that person is or what previous relationship you have had with them. While learning this art, it helps to be flexible, courteous, and respectful and to communicate openly in a productive, positive manner. You do not need to be friends with your roommate, but it helps to be friendly! Communication is the key to avoiding and resolving roommate conflicts. Here we define strategies to help you in establishing a mutual understanding of needs and expectations, to help you negotiate a compromise, and to help you manage everyday conflict. In addition to the resources listed below, your Resident Assistant and Resident Director are excellent sources of support and ideas for dealing with difficult roommate situations. Step 1: Developing a Mutual Understanding Step 2: Negotiating a Compromise Step 3: Managing Conflict Developing a Mutual Understanding Begin by establishing a pattern of open communication and cooperation with your roommate(s). Take time to share your reactions to some of the following sentence leads. This process will help you understand each other more fully and pinpoint potential areas for negotiation and compromise. Background: The family I come from is… What I miss most and least about home is… This year, I’m most looking forward to… This year, I’m worried about… Lifestyle I like to spend money on… I like to sleep at these times… The grades I hope to earn this semester are… I think drinking and drug use are… Some things I feel strongly about are… For me, making friends is… Emotions My parents and friends describe me as… What I do when I’m restless is…happy is…sad is…bored is…etc. What I want others to do when I’m restless is…happy is…sad is…bored is...etc. Summary Something I find interesting about you is… I believe we may be similar in… I believe we may be different in… We may have to negotiate or compromise on… With any luck, you and your roommate will be perfectly in sync and become fast friends. More likely, you will each learn some interesting things about each other and identify several aspects of each other’s personality that work well together. If so, there’s no need to worry, it just means you both will have to find some common ground by Negotiating a Compromise. Negotiating a Compromise When living with others, there is a need for give and take in many situations. Keep in mind that compromise is critical! That being said, every resident has certain rights which are of the highest importance. These rights are outlined in the Roommate’s Bill of Rights. Each roommate has the right to: Read and study without interference, unreasonable noise, and other distractions. Sleep without undue disturbances. Sleep in their own bed every evening. Have personal privacy in one’s room. Live in a clean environment. Host guests, with the understanding that guests will honor the other resident’s rights. Have free access to one’s room and hall facilities. Assume that there will be reasonable cooperation in telephone use. Expect respect for one’s belongings and personal property. Once you and your roommate(s) have pinpointed aspects of sharing a living space where negotiation may be necessary, use the Roommate Bill of Rights to help structure your ideas when filling out the Roommate Agreement Form. Putting agreements and understandings in writing helps to clarify issues and provides a point of reference if future conflicts arise. Some important topics and questions you may want to consider may be: Study time in the room/apartment: When will it be? What days are best? What hours? Can the stereo or TV be on? What volume is ok? Visitors: What are good hours/days for guests to visit? How long can they stay? Are girlfriends/boyfriends allowed to stay overnight? Sleep time: What time do we each need to get up? How many times can I hit snooze? What time is too late to come home? Privacy: How much privacy is needed? How often? How long? Personal property: What can and can’t be shared? Must permission be given? Telephone usage: Where should we write down messages? Do we answer call waiting? What time of day/night are calls acceptable? Housekeeping: How often will the room /apartment be cleaned? Who does what? What are your definitions of clean and messy? Personal Space: There isn’t much, how do we organize? How do we decorate? Social events: How frequent? What time or day? Who will clean up? Security: When will the doors and windows be locked? When will they be open? Will we lock our doors? Will we loan our keys? One of the most sensitive issues that bring about conflict is also the one of the most uncomfortable to discuss. When a roommate invites a boyfriend or girlfriend to campus, it may create an awkward situation. All feelings are difficult to discuss. We encourage you to be honest with your roommate about your feelings and expectations regarding these situations. Anything you do that might affect your roommate should be discussed an agreed upon beforehand. You both have a right to privacy and room use, but you each have a responsibility to each other, as well. The rights to a roommate’s living space should never be neglected. Negotiating a Roommate Agreement is often difficult and stressful, if you feel uncomfortable doing it on your own, contact your Resident Assistant or Resident Director for help. It is better to get a trained, impartial third party involved rather than to put yourself in a situation in which you are uncomfortable. If you still find yourself having recurring difficulties with you roommate(s), you might also want to read the suggestions under Managing Conflict. Managing Conflict Learning to accept each other’s differences, as well as not infringing on each other’s freedom is a valuable part of your total education. As roommates you should mutually determine the “law of the land” for your room. If you do find yourself involved in a roommate conflict, here are some tips to help you address the situation: 1. Don’t become too dependent on your roommate for friendship. Doing so may result in hurt feelings on your part and resentment on his/hers. It is healthy and natural to develop good friendships with people who you do NOT live with. 2. Talk with your roommate directly and deal with issues as they arise. It is much more effective to assert yourself as things happen, rather than to let several small issues build up over time and eventually explode. 3. Talk straight. Level with each other. Ex. “When you do X in situation Y, I felt Z.” Be honest about your needs thoughts, and feelings. 4. Validate others’ positions. Try to understand others’ points of view even when they differ from your own. Ex. “I understand how you might feel that way, but…” 5. Attack problems, NOT each other. Come to an agreement on what the conflict is and on what a solution may be. Make a plan of action that will help you to achieve the solution. Set a future date to evaluate the situation. 6. Use “I” statements to own and express your thoughts/feelings. Ex. “I feel left out” sounds very different from “You never spend any time with me.” 7. State issues positively. Instead of detailing why you can’t do what someone asks of you, state what you’re willing to do. Instead of, “I’m not cleaning up this whole mess, it’s not all mine!” say “I’d be happy to help you clean up X, Y, and Z.” 8. Always try to set a firm deadline for something to be completed. Ex. “I will clean all of the dishes by noon tomorrow.” 9. Once someone sets a deadline, give them until the deadline to achieve the goal. DO NOT continuously harp on them until they do it. 10. Try not to involve your neighbors or mutual friends in your conflict. This can aggravate the conflict and complicate the situation. 11. If you find that you cannot solve things on your own, seek out the Resident Assistant or the Resident Director. It can often be helpful to have an objective, non-involved party to help talk things out. 12. Fill out a Roommate Agreement! If all aspects of the compromise are documented and signed by everyone involved, nobody can say they didn’t know or understand. Most importantly, always remember that none of us are perfect. If problems develop that you can’t solve on your own, there are people trained to deal with these kinds of situations who live right in your own building. Your Resident Assistants and Resident Directors have all gone through several weeks of rigorous training to help them understand what causes conflict and how to solve it. Since room changes are not often a viable solution, before you give up or make things worse, seek out a professional! Finally, watch out for becoming too dependent on your roommate for friendship. Doing so may result in hurt feelings on your part and resentment on his/hers. As the school year gets underway, remember that it is natural for good friendships to develop between students who are not roommates.
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