How do you deal with a bad roommate?

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Answered by: Elizabeth, An Expert in the College Life - General Category
One of the most important things you have to deal with (and the last thing you want to deal with) in college is the roommates. Why is this such a problem? They're just people, right? And you've lived with your siblings for years and survived it. Of course, when multiple people from different backgrounds, beliefs, and sometimes even cultures, live together, things can get a lot dicier than expected. While college is usually the place you'll meet your best friends for life, it's also the place where, if you're unlucky, you can often find yourself bunked with the most dreaded of college problems: the bad room mate.

In order to deal with a bad room mate, and room mates in general, it's important to follow 5 key rules:

1) The first rule of any relationship, be it that of room mates, lovers, friends, or family is COMMUNICATION. When your room mates are doing obnoxious things, don't be afraid to let them know that it bothers you. This doesn't mean you have to yell or get dramatic about it, but simply saying, "Hey, I know this might sound like I'm a neat freak, but I clean up the dorm every morning and by that night it's kind of a big mess. Think you could help me with that?"

However, nobody wants to listen to somebody who never speaks to them unless it's negative, so be sure to also get to know your room mate. Go to the cafeteria with them, sit and complain about professors with them, and establish an open line of communication that helps them understand that when you do have a complaint, it's as a friend.

2) The second thing to consider is this: you come from different places. Whether you and your room mate come from different homes, different cities, different states, or even different countries, it's important to remember that your backgrounds are, in fact, different. Therefore, the way you live, eat, sleep, and handle problems is going to be different. Remember this when your room mates do things that may seem unusual, rude, or even gross to you.

Perhaps their anal-retentive cleanliness seems a bit dictator-like to you but, perhaps you might want to consider that your casual "organized clutter" might come across as messy and disgusting to them. This is an instance in which you can each very easily meet each other half way and, most importantly, understand that you simply view cleanliness differently.

3) Thirdly, you must remember that boundaries are important. Set some right off the bat and respect your room mate's boundaries. If they're uncomfortable with loud music late at night, turn it down a few notches. If you dislike clothing on your floor, designate an area for laundry, making it clear that your area is not to be invaded by it.

4) When dealing with someone you have to see every day, passive-aggressiveness is the enemy. While your initial instinct may be to vent your feelings without confrontation, remember this: notes are a bad idea. Whether your message is passed through a friend, written on paper, or left on Facebook, this is a BAD IDEA. If you have problem, it's time to grow up college-style and say it to their face. Talking behind someone's back instead of to their face is childish and, now that you're in college, it's time to stop being a child. High school is over, my friend. Face to face contact also shows respect and gives you a chance to get your message across the way you meant it, not the way it looks in black and white.

5) And, finally, when you've tried everything and your room mate simply will not reciprocate your good will and intentions, it's time to go to a higher authority. After you've tried getting to know your room mate, accepted them for who they are, and talked to them directly about any problems you have, you've done all you can. You are, after all, only one person. Unfortunately, some room mates do not care what you want, like, or have to say. Don't take it personally. Most likely, they're just having trouble adjusting to adulthood.

If this is the case, it's time to meet up with someone who has been hired to take care of such problems. Floor leaders, dorm managers, and such have experience dealing with such troubles. Simply explain your problem to them and they'll most likely want to talk to your room mate as well. If they don't manage to convince your bad room mate to straighten up, they'll almost always be willing to relocate you. Be prepared for this to take some time, though, as relocation is a difficult process once the school year has already begun. You may simply have to end up requesting to be assigned a different dorm for the next semester and ride out the rest of the current one.

Remember, room mates are people too, even the bad ones. Most of the time communication and understanding can create a tolerable living environment but sometime, you just get a bad room mate. If so, get help. If that doesn't work, get out of there. College life is short. Enjoy it!

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