Toledo: Communication is key to navigating roommate relationships

Katharine Toledo, Staff Reporter

Even as many of us enter our second years, getting along with your roommates can still be a challenge. But from my time on campus, I’ve found some of the surefire routes for having a smooth living experience.

Rule number one is communication.

To me, the biggest reason people have roommate problems is a lack of communication. It may not be an explicit decision not to tell someone how you feel; sometimes, it’s a personality characteristic. Some people are more openly expressive of their feelings, while others are more reserved and feel more comfortable expressing their feelings subtly.

You have to find a communication style that works for you and your roommates. This usually means that you should talk to each other before things get to the point of no return. When you have an issue with your roommate or roommates, agree ahead of time to discuss it calmly in a way that lets all parties express their feelings.

Often, this is easier said than done. When someone feels hurt, it’s easy to get frustrated or angry with others, even when you’re trying to stay calm. This is when you take advantage of the resources around you, like your resident assistant (RA). Your RA or another trusted friend can serve as a moderator, someone neutral to balance the conversation and allow everyone to express their feelings.

You can also help with communication by just setting rules ahead of time. It’s easy to be optimistic and say “Oh, we’ll never have issues,” when you first make the decision to room with someone, but the best way to avoid conflict later on is to make your expectations for one another clear from the beginning.

Make a list of rules for each of you to abide by and put the list in a place where everyone can see it. You should include rules addressing if there should be quiet time—when talking on the phone is not allowed and headphones become necessary—what the rules are for having a significant other or friends over and sharing both property and common spaces.  

In other words, it’s important to set the boundaries before things happen. For example, if one of the roomates is interested in having a significant other spend the night, it’s first important to decide whether or not everyone is comfortable with that, then evaluate the rules that should surround such an occurrence.

Even simple things, such as what items should be shared between roommates, can cause a good deal of strife between individuals. If roommates share a mini fridge or any other space where there is a high concentration of food, you must determine what the rules are for sharing: is everything up for grabs or do you agree to consume only what you purchased?

But perhaps the most important of living with a roommate is to have fun. The best roommates are the ones who you stay up late with having random conversations, eat too much ice cream with and talk to when things are tough. And if you’re following my previous two rules well, these are the exact roommates you should find yourself with.

Even though it’s sometimes difficult to have roommates, it can help you develop friendships that will last a lifetime.

Katharine (Katie) Toledo is a second-year student from Columbus, Ohio. She studies political science and economics on the pre-law track with a minor in Spanish. Her hobbies include watching Netflix, staring wistfully at photos of her two beagles, visiting Mitchell’s Ice Cream and writing for The Observer.