If you’ve been to college, chances are likely that you’ve had at least one roommate in your life. Being considered a good roommate is important because it is an opportunity to develop great interpersonal skills. You’ll need those type of skills when interacting with people everywhere you go but especially in the workplace. If being in a committed relationship is one of your life goals, there’s much value in those skills as one day you might be living with the love of your life. Not to mention, who wants to be labeled as a bad roommate?
1. Do you communicate often or only when necessary?
Good communication skills are vital to any relationship. Verbal skills aren’t the only way we communicate. Body language is taken into account as well. So if you aren’t talking to your roommate often (small talk not included), what do you think this communicates to them? It could easily be assumed that you have no interest in your roommate. Some people may feel that roommates are the only people who share a living space. I believe that they can be much more to that. There is so much value in a good roommate and it starts with being able to communicate with them effectively and kindly.
I lived with a roommate who only spoke to me when I spoke first. This was of course very awkward and sometimes came off as rude. By not having an open line of communication with your roomie, things get swept under the rug, resentment builds and then arguments happen. To avoid this, I always suggest when you get a new roommate, get to know them. Talk to them often, spend time with them when you can. If you choose not to communicate regularly, how can you communicate effectively when problems arise? When arguments happen, people often forget what you said and only remember how they felt at that moment. Do you really want the most memorable moments with your roommate about how upset you made them in the heat of the moment? I don’t think so. So talk to each other often to make those conversations less heated.
2. Do you value your roommate’s interests/relationships that you don’t share?
I don’t think anyone expects you and your roomie to share everything. You are both individuals and it’s completely normal to have interests and a life outside of the space you share. I think it’s important to give your roommate the space they need to feel comfortable doing their favorite hobbies and having friends and family over within reason. By not valuing their separate lives, you could be unintentionally creating an awkward environment. For example, if no one ever uses the dining area or the living room, that’s a problem. You shouldn’t feel confined to your bedroom or to spaces outside your house.
It’s always nice to be able to respect and spend time doing things that your roomie enjoys. Give their favorite tv show a try or try spending time with their friends when they visit. It’s only awkward if you make it awkward. Occasionally giving your roomie that genuine quality time could make lasting friendships after you go your separate ways.
3. Is there mutual and self-respect between you?
This is probably the most important question of them all. If you don’t have respect for yourself and your living space, how can you respect other’s living space even if it is shared? If you don’t value cleanliness, organization and being comfortable in your home, you will definitely have issues. When living with someone I think cleanliness, organization and comfortability are the most important values as it relates directly to respect. If you respect your roommate and yourself, you won’t allow situations to occur when they feel that the shared living space isn’t clean, organized or made to have them feel uncomfortable.
If you feel that there isn’t mutual respect between you and your roommate, it’s time for a deep conversation. Instead of being accusatory, talk about what actions are being done to make you feel disrespected. Have your facts together and make sure that they are real and not perceived. Use “I” statements. If you start statements with “you” be prepared for your roomie to get defensive. This works! I use this method in my daily life and keeps the conversation going without anyone feeling attacked.
4. Are you able to accept differences in your lifestyles at home?
One of the most different lessons I’ve had to learn about living with people is that people aren’t raised the same as me. Some people like sleeping with their tv on at night, putting their toilet paper under versus over, chew with their mouth open… I could go on and on. The point is that just because you have different lifestyles and beliefs doesn’t mean you can have a great roommate partnership. This is an opportunity for you to challenge your beliefs and to learn different ones.
I have lived with people who are polar opposites from me. The biggest part of living with people who are different is to set boundaries. Instead of making sacrifices or expecting sacrifices from your roommate, try to set fair compromises. You don’t want to build a relationship with someone based on unfair compromises as that will eventually lead to resentment. When I moved recently, my roommate and I had a sit-down conversation to discuss our expectations for one another. We literally went room by room to talk about what we needed from the other person to keep our relationship intact. We can now hold each other accountable based on that conversation. Discussing expectations can be better than setting rules as rules could change more frequently as different situations occur.
5. Is your relationship playful or strictly business?
Every roommate relationship is different. Some have roommates for financial reasons and some have roommates because they don’t want to live alone. I think there should be a good balance between being playful and handling business at home. You are technically business partners when it comes to paying bills, utilities, chores, etc., but you don’t have to stop there.
Being able to be playful at times with your roommate and express other emotions can be very important. It shows that you trust your roommate and allows you to be yourself. At home, I’m typically very silly and jovial with my roommate. It keeps conversations going and allows us to be honest with our emotions during difficult times. If I’m having a rough day, my roommate can pick up on that from my demeanor. That can really be a lifesaver if you need to vent and don’t have the emotional energy to call a friend.
If you found that “no” was a part of most of your answers, you may want to take some time reflecting on why. Ask yourself what led you to answer the question in that way? Are your answers reflective of what your roommate would consider acceptable? Are you conveying the qualities of a good roommate? We understand others better when we can learn more about ourselves so every now and then it’s a good idea to put some work into ourselves. We shouldn’t take living with others for granted. Being a good roommate could help you become a better version of yourself. I think that’s worth it.
Click here to take a roommate test to see if you are a bad roommate.
What is your craziest roommate experience?