How to talk to your Roommate
Roommate relationships are the foundations for community development. It is not necessary
to be best friends or share every aspect of college life together, but it is important
that roommates respect each other's rights. Developing a positive relationship is
a process; it does not happen overnight and takes effort. Although, this page is not
meant to be a comprehensive guide to roommate relationships, here are some proactive
steps you can take to help build that successful relationship. Building successful
A step-by-step approach
I. Get to know your roommate
Ask questions that will help you learn about each other and build on your similarities.
Some specific topics can be discussed that will open the door to a greater understanding
of each other.
Where are you from?
What is your family like?
What are your favorite things to do?
What is your major?
II. Talk about expectations of each other.
Now that you know a little about your roommate as a person, it is time to talk about
expectations and set some guidelines for living in the same room or suite. Be open
with your needs, but also be willing to compromise. Discuss these issues that roommates
typically disagree about before they become significant. Here some common issues:
Safety & Security
Use of Property
How neat/clean are you used to keeping your room?
How will housekeeping duties be shared?
How would you like the room arranged and decorated?
What items are you comfortable sharing and what would you prefer not to be borrowed
or used? Will you share food and drinks costs? Do you mind if guests use items in
the room? Do you prefer to be asked before someone borrows something?
What time do you typically study?
Can you study with the TV or radio on? With visitors in the room?
What time do you typically go to bed or get up in the morning?
Are you a heavy or light sleeper?
Can you sleep with the TV or radio on? With visitors in the room? Roommate Conflict
Tips If the agreements you and your roommate reach now break down later, speak up!
There are ways to complain without alienating your roommate(s). Here are some basic
rules for talking about the conflicts that may come up during the year:
State issues directly; speak to your roommate neutrally while still relaying your
Be calm and cool. When you lose your temper, you might also lose the opportunity to
resolve your differences.
Use statements that begin with "I". For example, say "I get really upset when you
don't clean the dishes," instead of "You never clean up after yourself!" This way,
your roommate(s) can see the direct connection between their actions and your reactions.
Make sure to be careful, though, that this doesn't degenerate into "I'm sick and tired
of . . ."
Be careful not to make accusations like "You couldn't care less about how I feel!"
This will only make your roommate defensive. Talk about specific behaviors, not a
Put yourself in your roommate's shoes, treating them as you would like to be treated.
Before you make any demands, think about how you would react to such demands.
Be willing to offer solutions and compromise. Seeking Assistance
If a solution cannot be reached by the roommates, the next step is to ask Residence
Life staff for help or mediation. Resident Assistants and Residence Directors, have
been well trained to serve as impartial mediators. Roommate changes are only used
after other methods of resolving conflict have been tried and if space is available.