Getting Along With Your Roommate

Most freshmen don't choose their roommate, and even if they do, conflicts are bound to occur at some point during the year. So how do you handle it when your roommate is up at 6 a.m. doing calisthenics while you're just heading to bed after a late-night study session? The solution to any roommate conflict is good communication. And talking about your similarities and differences in advance can help to head off future problems.

You don't have to be best friends with your roommate, but getting along with them, and respecting each other's personal space, ideas, and backgrounds can certainly make the year pass more quickly. Here are some ideas for getting to know your roommate.

Talk to your roommate about your:

Personal Background
Preferences, Habits, and Characteristics
Emotional Style
Reactions to Each Other

Remember that throughout the year, your values, habits, likes, and dislikes might begin to change. The key to a good roommate relationship is honest, open, and frequent conversation. Don't let problems fester. Discuss them, listen to your roommate's viewpoint, and work on a solution.

Personal Background

Tell your roommate about your family, your high school, your friends, and what it was like growing up. Try to express your feelings - not just the bare facts. Some conversation starters:

  • What I can say about my family…
  • What seems important for me to tell about my high school…
  • How I describe my friends from home…
  • The way I characterize my neighborhood, my hometown, and the people who live there…
  • My favorite activities, interests, and hobbies before coming to college…
Back to top

Preferences, Habits, and Characteristics

Maybe you're a night owl and your roommate is a morning person. Or you're the messy one driving your neat roommate nuts. In any relationship there are bound to be differences - as well as similarities. You might as well get them out in the open now. If you have a good idea of the areas where you might conflict, you can try to make compromises right from the start. Some conversation starters:

  • How I feel about my possessions (what things are OK for others to borrow, what things are just for me)…
  • How important grades are to me and what I hope to earn...
  • How important it is that our room is kept neat and clean…
  • How much sleep I need and when I need it…
  • How I feel about drugs and drinking…
  • How I feel about dating…
  • How I feel about having people of the opposite sex in the room…
  • How hard or easy I think it will be to make friends…
  • What kind of music I like…
Back to top

Emotional Style

The way you experience and express your feelings can affect how easy it is for others to get along with you. Do you pout when things don't go your way? Do you put on a happy face no matter what? When you're sad do you need to be alone? Or do you like to talk it out? Responding honestly to these conversation starters can make understanding and responding to each other much easier in the months ahead:

  • What I'm like when I'm upset or down about something…
  • How hard it is for me to let others know what I'm feeling or what I need…
  • Things that cheer me up when I'm upset…
  • How I am when things are going really well…
  • Times when I just want to be left alone…
  • How I usually let people know when I'm angry…
  • What my mood is like most of the time…
  • Things that make me really tense or uptight…
  • What I'm like when I feel pressured or stressed out…
  • Things that really annoy me…
Back to top

Reactions to Each Other

If you've talked with your roommate about your background, personal characteristics, and emotional style, you may think you know everything about him or her. Are you sure? Try responding to these questions with one another to make sure you're both on the same page:

  • The thing I'm most aware of about you is…
  • It seems like an important similarity between us is…
  • I think an important difference might be…
  • I think we might have to compromise on…
  • One thing I think I might learn from living with you is…
  • One thing I've learned about myself from having this discussion is…
  • How I feel about this conversation…
Back to top

Contact

University of Portland
5000 N. Willamette Blvd.,
Portland, Oregon 97203-5798

503.943.8000

webmaster@up.edu