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What NOT to Do About Roommate Problems

October 18th, 2007 admin

Dorm rooms (and even apartments) can be pretty close quarters, and even roommates who start off close can wear on each other’s nerves. Sooner or later, one of you is going to get grumpy, irritated, or downright angry—and how you handle that could make or break your friendship.

I lived with my roommate, Karly* (*I changed her name here, obviously), all the way through our junior year of college. We got along pretty well for the most part, but from time to time we bugged each other. I wish I could say that everything worked out perfectly, but I didn’t exactly have the perfect roommate problem experience. Hopefully you can learn from what happened to me:

  1. Don’t Trash Talk Your Roommate
    Karly didn’t really know how to cope when she was annoyed with me. Sometimes she would leave away messages on AIM about how I was bugging her. Other times she would have a gripe-fest about me on her blog, (which she linked to from her instant messaging profile so all our mutual friends could read it!). That was both embarrassing and hurtful. While I did my best to be a good roommate, I was always worried that I would accidentally do something that would end up on Karly’s blog for everyone to read.
  2. Don’t Avoid the Issue
    Aside from telling other people how much I bugged her, Karly didn’t make much of an effort to fix the problem. Sometimes she sighed loudly or refused to talk to me. The one thing she never really did was mention any of this to me face to face. That made it really difficult for me to even approach the subject, because Karly was pretending there was no problem.
  3. Don’t be Accusing
    I made every effort to be a good roommate, because I knew I had to get through a year with whomever I ended up with. Mostly Karly and I got along well—as evidenced by the fact that we lived together for 3 years—but we came from different backgrounds. The point is, your roommate probably isn’t trying to bug you, and accusations are more likely to make people defensive than to fix a problem. So be careful how you word the “can we fix this” conversation, and offer to be part of the solution. Instead of saying, “It is so obnoxious how you always have your stupid music on so loud. Would you cut it out?” you could try, “I think we both have a hard time studying with each others’ music on. Is it okay if we agree to wear headphones?”

Do you have any awkward roommate stories or tips about how you get along with your roomie? I’d love to hear them!

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13 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Surviving College Life &r&hellip  |  November 5th, 2007 at 9:54 am

    […] know what to do if your roommate is driving you up the wall?  A couple of posts ago, I wrote about how NOT to handle roommate problems. So now that you know what not to do, here are a few steps you should […]

  • 2. Surviving College Life &r&hellip  |  February 7th, 2008 at 11:54 am

    […] puts a strain on your relationship with your roommate like a continuous hacking cough disrupting precious hours of sleep time. Here’s what you should […]

  • 3. Kayla  |  February 18th, 2008 at 10:03 am

    I’m going to University for my first year in the fall and I’m terrified that I’m going to end up with a roomate that I absolutely hate or she hates me or something like that. I’m also terrified I’m going to be a horrible room mate.

    Hopefully things will work out for the best!

  • 4. Jamie  |  February 19th, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    @ Kayla: There are some rare cases where you have a BAD situation, but for the most part roommates tend to get along–and you only have to live together for a few months. Remember, you can always switch if you have a bad roommate!

    Good luck @ University!

  • 5. Liz  |  July 30th, 2008 at 5:47 am

    I haven’t met my roommate yet, but we’ve been emailing back and forth for several weeks now, and things were going great until this morning. She sent me this really cold and antagonistic email out of the blue, calling me stupid and uneducated for starters, and I really don’t know how to respond. I have no idea what I did or said to get this email in reponse. Any ideas? I’m really stuck.

  • 6. Jamie  |  July 30th, 2008 at 8:35 am

    @ Liz: That is a REALLY weird and uncomfortable situation, and I’m sorry you’re even having to deal with this! Unfortunately, since you can’t read your future roommate’s mind, it looks like you’re going to have to talk it out. I’d suggest an email—or even a phone call, since it might be easier to get this fixed if you can hear each other’s intonations—explaining to your roommate that you didn’t mean to offend her and asking what you did that upset her.

    It’s not the most comfortable solution, but after some pretty rocky months with my roommate, I’m a big believer in discussing the situation head on—you don’t want to end up with this icy, grumpy roommate all year.

    Also—and this might be even harder—try to be patient (not defensive) and really listen to her side, and address her concerns calmly. Again, tough to do when someone is telling you you’re stupid or whatever, but usually if one of you keeps cool it helps you actually resolve the issue.

  • 7. Julie N  |  December 10th, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    All of these are really good tips. The one I could have employed the most is #2: Don’t avoid the issue. A lot of people, myself included, don’t like confrontation. Most of the time, we figure that things will just work themselves out on their own. When it comes to roommates, chances are that if you wait for things to work themselves out, you’ll still have the original problem plus a few more to deal with. Your best bet to to tackle each problem as it comes up instead of waiting until there are so many problems that they become insurmountable.
    If I were to add one, it would be “do not forget to have a sense of humor.” Most of our conflicts aren’t do or die situations, so if you can tease, poke, giggle and prod your roommate about the problem, you still may not be able to get what you want but at least it won’t all blow up in your face.

  • 8. Jamie  |  December 12th, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    @ Julie: That is a great point. A sense of humor definitely goes a long way–you just have to make sure you find a roommate with one, too!

  • 9. ivy  |  February 21st, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    unless you just have roomates/housemates that totally dont care about other people. in that case, nothing would change and dont expect miracle to happen.
    my advice is that; if you feel like your roomates are not going to make compromises no matter how many times you guys talk about those issues, drop the idea of changing them and get other ppl to live with you
    dont waste your time!

  • 10. Jelina Dsouza  |  October 20th, 2009 at 11:26 pm

    hi, I have this insane roommate who is a bit paranoid ..loves to make a scene out of every situautiion and has no work in this world other than cursing her parents, and talkin all the shit with her boyfriend that too loudly even if everybody is there she constantly goes on talking bout her boyfriend with us and keeps on trying to know what is going in our lives even if we are least interested in telling. My one more roommate and she constantly keep on gossiping and tell badd stuff about us to each other.she’ll keep on just reminding me of the things she did for me.
    Please tell me what should I do. I have no alternative but to live with her…:(..HOw should I handle such girl and manage my studies…

  • 11. Lucy  |  June 16th, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    I had problems when my roommate got a new boyfriend. He was always over and they were big on PDA. The thing is, he had his own dorm which was in the hall right next to ours. I didn’t understand why they never went over there. Even though we each have our own room, we share a kitchen and bathroom and the walls are super thin. When he took a shower in ours instead of his and it made me late and I ended up having to go without a shower to get to where I needed to be I reached past the point of ticked. I agreed to share the dorm with my roomie not with my roomie and her boytoy. The dorm was built to barely contain 2 people, not 3! So, I finally had a talk with my roommate. It was really awkward and I hated every minute of it but she really took it well and has made efforts to curb the amount of time her boyfriend is over. All I can say is that talking is extremely important but in the end you have to decide what you can live. If you can’t deal with your roommate or they refuse to make necessary changes you should choose a new roommate.

  • 12. Jamie  |  August 11th, 2010 at 7:43 am

    @Lucy: That is such a tough situation–I’m impressed that you both were able to deal with it so maturely. Thanks for sharing your story and encouraging your fellow readers!

  • 13. Monica  |  December 10th, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    I dorm with my best friend of four years. We both have boyfriends and when hes around we leave the room because she’s usually sleeping, and when he is there we make it awkward for her. But with her and her boyfriend they are always kissing and making it awkward for me and the time I ask her and him to leave so I can study she gets an attitude and storms off. She also likes involving people to the situation and she doesn’t talk about it with me so what can I do?

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