Students Greeting Each Other

Throughout our lives, we meet different people and attempt to build a relationship with them. One of the more challenging ones is with a roommate. For some of us, this started when we arrived at college and found ourselves sharing a room for the first time. And for others, this begins when we enter the “adult” world.

Having a roommate can be a challenging experience whether it’s a personality clash, lifestyle differences or a desire to live in two different environments. For the unlucky ones, they may soon be living in a dreaded bad roommate situation.

Some universities and colleges will provide incoming students with a guide on how to get along with their new roommate but out on your own, this may not exist. It could turn into a bad situation; however, if you have a bad roommate, it doesn’t have to ruin your experience if you are proactive.

The following tips can help you find your roommate, resolve your differences, improve communication, share chores or just be respectful to one another.

Finding your Roommate

The first challenge as you dip your toes into the roommate world is finding a roommate. Similar to finding a job, one of the best ways is through word of mouth. Ask around, whether it’s friends, family or work colleagues to see if they know anyone who needs a roommate.

Finding your Roommate

By having a common connection, you won’t have to deal with a stranger, you can do your background research and you’ll immediately start off with a connection.

And if you’re feeling braver, you can search online such as craigslist, an alumni board or social media.

Learning Each Other’s Lifestyles and Habits

Now that you’ve found your roommate the next hurdle will be to learn their habits and personalities. Be sure to ask questions. Lots of questions.

Maybe you have a personality test or a top 10 list of questions that you like to use. Ask open-ended questions that will enable respondents to talk about themselves and offer you an opportunity to ask follow-up questions.


From the answers, make some conclusions to determine if there’s going to be any potential problems.

What to Look Out For

Want to avoid living with a partier if you’re a homebody? Ask what they like to do on the weekends. If they talk excessively about going to the bar and drinking a lot, there’s a clear warning sign.

Want to avoid living with a homebody if you’re the one who’s social? I’ve been down this road before.

I had a roommate (we had been part-time students together) who came home every night after work and watched four straight hours of TV. She was glued, sitting on the couch. Sure, I could have joined her but I was completely disinterested in the programming.

And getting her to break away and either empty the dishwasher or pay the bills, was another challenge.

This is where our roommate relationship started to go south.

When Issues Arise

Talk to One Another

Speech Bubbles

What we should have done as we found ourselves in a bad roommate situation was to air our grievances to one another. And ask questions ahead of time about our habits. We didn’t but it’s not too late for you.

When you know it’s time to talk to one another, this should be done face-to-face not via Facebook pages, tweets, Instagram, text messages or emails.

Sure, there’s a fear of hurting one’s feelings, not being honest or just being angry and defensive, which will not result in a positive conversation. But talking will always be productive.

By having a common connection, you won’t have to deal with a stranger, you can do your background research and you’ll immediately start off with a connection.

Once you begin talking, to move the conversation along, think before you speak and share some examples of your discontent, but don’t be petty.

Sure, I could have been accusatory and said "Well if you’d stop watching TV, you’d be a better roommate, not a couch potato." Fortunately, I did not say these things; however, I said nothing.

Roommates Only

Along with the no social media policy, you should stick to a roommates-only conversation. Don’t involve others. They can cause distractions, intimidate some to speak their minds and in a worse-case scenario, intervene and offer their unsolicited opinions.

They could also share the conversation with everyone else.

This is a dynamic you don’t need and an easy reminder why the discussion should stay between roommates, not anyone else.

Roommates Having a Conversation

Be Direct

Now that you’ve decided to have “the conversation,” be direct. Don’t say something isn’t a big deal when really it is. Maybe your roommate never does his dishes, brings home the party after the bars or eats all of your food instead of buying his own groceries.

State why this bothers you and discuss how this can be resolved. The other person may have no idea this is an issue for you, and bringing it to his attention can help. Cite specific examples, such as a recent incident with lots of details. From this, he should know not to do it in the future.

And keep in mind, there are also likely things you do that bother your roommate, so keep an open mind.

Pick your Battles

Think about issues that are really bothering you about your roommate. They can potentially be altered or resolved by compromise.

Set Ground Rules

If you do conduct the conversation on your own, once you’ve discussed some issues that are bothering you, set some ground rules. Be specific as they can affect your home life, which will spill over into other aspects of your life.

PlatesLiving with a messy roommate? I’m guilty of this and have been asked to keep my mess in my room. I respected this request.

SpeakersBlaring loud music? Talk about hours to play music, when not to do so or just wear headphones.

Yogurt ThiefEating your food? Buy groceries together or write your name on individual items.

After you’ve set these rules, write them down and read over them together. Make edits where needed and once you agree to them, abide by it.

Then, the next time you have a disagreement or see that bad roommate situation creeping back in, refer to the rules and use it as a way to begin a discussion.

You may also want to display them as a gentle reminder of your joint efforts and your expectations of one another.

Avoiding your Roommate

Sometimes the roommate relationship becomes irreparable. You may just want to avoid each other.

Don’t make it a hostile environment but just go about your own business. Make plans to get together with friends, go to that weekday workout that you tend to blow off or when you get home, go to your room.

You don’t have to be a hermit but try to avoid adding fuel to the fire.

How did I handle the couch potato? Yep, I made plans with other friends more often, worked out and on that occasion that my roommate and I spoke, I encouraged her to go out with friends too.

Get to Know Each Other

Or, maybe your conversation went well or you’ve noticed a change in behavior by your roommate. Suddenly that other person doesn’t seem so bad. While you don’t have to be best friends with your roomie, getting to know them could make your home life better.