When it comes to living with others, talk isn’t cheap

Living with a roommate is one of the most exciting things about your freshman year in college. It’s one of the only times in your life when you meet a stranger who you know will have a profound impact on you.

Indeed, research has demonstrated that roommates often shape each other’s behavior and, as observed in recent New York Times article “How A College Roommate Can Affect Your Child,” roommates can affect everything from academic performance to freshman weight gain. Author Perri Klass references a study that found that when a student is matched with a roommate that drinks alcohol, his or her school performance will deteriorate.

There is a common misconception that if you are not best friends with your roommate, you are going to have problems. Most upperclassmen will tell you, however, that you do not need to be best friends with your roommate; you don’t even need to be friends. You just need to have respect for each other and be able to live together without ripping each other’s throats out.

What’s the trick to being able to sustain a good relationship with your roommate? Communicating. If you have an issue with your roommate, tell them. Holding in resentment and anger toward another person for a whole year is exhausting, and you will likely release all of that anger one day when you find yourself rolling around in the corridor with your roommate in a headlock over a misplaced sock on the floor.

If your roommate is being unhelpful, let them know. Talk to them about what you expect from them and see where they stand on what they expect from you. If you and another suitemate are the only two people doing any kind of cleaning, then talk to your fellow suitemates about the issue. Charts are a great way of organizing work that needs to be done. In the worst case scenario, your resident assistants are always there to mediate conflict. If you live off campus, enlisting a third party, perhaps a friend who does not live with you, is crucial.

If you feel that one suitemate is being left out, then talk to the other people you are living with. Sit down with all of them when the other suitemate isn’t there, tell them what your concerns are and come up with a solution that will make your suitemate feel like part of the group.

In the end, the solution to most roommate problems comes down to talking to one another; people aren’t mind readers. By sharing with your roommate how you feel about certain things, you are avoiding a full-on brawl later. It may sound juvenile, but sharing your feelings and concerns works for any age group.