Real Talk: How to Have a Positive Relationship with Your Roommate

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Sharing a space with roommates can be a ton of fun — but it can also bring up some tricky situations. Whether you and your roomie are facing miscommunications or mismatched lifestyles, solutions are out there. We reached out to Kenyon Gaar and Leigh Jahnke, two UNL Housing resident assistants, for their top tips and tricks for creating positive roommate relationships.

What are some important “get to know you” conversations to have with a new roommate?

Kenyon Gaar: I think talking about interests is a great conversation starter. My freshman year roommate and I used to talk about music and play guitar together. That was one of the best ways we connected.

Leigh Jahnke: One important “get to know you” conversation includes asking where your roommate is from. It is important to know what kind of community your roommate grew up in because it can help you understand why your roommate has certain customs or beliefs. It is also important to know pet peeves and hobbies your roommate has so that you can avoid doing something to annoy your roommate right off the bat, and you will be able to find common interests between the two of you that you can partake in together.

What are some base-level rules that you should establish with a roommate?

KG: Setting boundaries! Being very honest and working with your RA to define clear rules about the room. Two of the big issues I consistently run into with roommates are noise level and room temperature. It might sound dumb at first, but these things can be mediated with some careful conversations at the beginning of the year.

LJ: It is important to talk about if guests are allowed, and if so, how late they are allowed. It is also important to discuss what time your roommate prefers to go to bed. Also, establishing boundaries about what will be shared and what will not be shared is important. Some residents say they will share EVERYTHING, but does that really mean everything? Will they share their clothes, food, and even their toothbrush?

How can I be a good roommate?

KG: Be willing to compromise! Living with someone else can take a lot of getting used to. Being able to be flexible and realize that the other roommate has just as much right to be there as you do.

LJ: A good roommate prioritizes communication. When a conflict arises, a good roommate will want to sit down and figure out how to resolve the conflict. It is easy to be passive-aggressive or to avoid confrontation out of fear of offending the other roommate, but it will be better in the long run if you discuss issues with each other when they occur.

Huskers talk in a dorm

How can roommates handle disagreements in a positive manner?

KG: By being willing to talk to each other and other resources to get things solved. One of the reasons first-year housing is such a good experience is because there is a high likelihood that after living on campus, people will have roommates. It is a great experience because there are built-in resources to help facilitate these relationships.

LJ: Roommates can handle disagreements in a positive manner by being empathetic with the other person and making an effort to understand where they are coming from. Instead of utilizing defensive statements like, “why do you think this about me,” it is important to use more empathetic statements like, “help me understand what makes you feel this way.”

How can RAs help during roommate disagreements?

KG: All the RAs have been through training for roommate disagreements. Most of us have had to either hold a mediation or be involved in one. We also have several different resources at our disposal, including the residence directors as well. Having a neutral party during these conversations can really help.

LJ: RAs can help during roommate disagreements by providing a neutral party to mediate a conflict. It helps to have an outside person to help steer the conversation to a positive, equitable resolution. RAs can make sure that both parties have time to share their concerns so that everyone feels heard.

Do you have any other tips or recommendations on having positive relationships with roommates?

KG: Going out to eat was always a great way for my roommate and I to get closer. Doing stuff that you both enjoy is just a great way to keep stuff positive.

LJ: Get to know your roommate! Even if you have other friends on campus, make time for your roommate so that they know you want to develop a positive relationship with them. It is going to be awkward at times, but trust me, you will be glad you tried.

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