How to establish a positive room environment
Basic Truths, Roommates Don't Have to Be Best Friends.
It's great if you like each other and have common interests. But one of the most rewarding experiences in college is getting to know many different kinds of people and learning to tolerate, even celebrate, differences. And sometimes roommates just don't have much in common, and forge their most important friendships outside the room.
You are Your Roommate's Roommate.
Your roommates have their likes and dislikes, priorities and peeves -- just like you. Remember that you are your roommate's roommate, and both of you need to see the world of your room through one another's eyes. This will help keep you from crowding your roommate out of the room with your friends, or driving them mad by playing music all night, or devoting yourself to reforming their political opinions or taste in clothes. The room belongs to both of you, and you need to find ways to live in it comfortably, together.
We all make assumptions. They may be wrong.
Things that you might have taken for granted all your life might have to be rethought or revised now that you are living with someone new. You may feel fine about sharing food, but your roommate might not. You roommate may feel that clothes left on the floor are icky, but you may not. Things that were OK at home may not be OK in your room. Talk with one another, and come to agreements or compromises together.
New Relationships Go Through Changes.
Be prepared for your new college relationships to undergo changes in their first few months. You may want to go to every meal with your roommates at first, but that may change as you meet more people. You may hate your roommates at first, but that may change as you get to know one another. Your roommate may feel fine about sharing that package of cookies with you at first, but that may change as you roommate realizes it usually takes them a week to go through a package of cookies while it takes you an hour. Be open to these changes, and if you and your roommate need to make mid-semester or mid-year adjustments, talk about it.
Communication is the Key.
When something that your roommate does is bothering you, be direct and respectful in bringing it up, and bring it up sooner rather than later. Try to phrase your concern in terms of specific behaviors and solutions ("Listen, there's something I have been meaning to mention. When you get up early and I'm still sleeping, it wakes me up when you turn on the overhead light, and I wonder if you would mind using your bedside light instead.") rather than phrasing your concern in terms of character traits or personal qualities ("You inconsiderate jerk! You are the most selfish person I have ever met!").
"We Need to Talk."
It's usually best to bring up a concern right in the moment that it's bothering you -- this way you can address it immediately rather than letting it continue to annoy and grow into a bigger and bigger problem. But if your concerns are serious ones, or ones that you and your roommate are likely to have strong feelings about, it's best to bring them up at a time and place that will allow you to address them fully. Ask your roommate for a "roommate check-in" at a specific time and place when you'll both feel comfortable.
If your roommate complains to you that something bothers them in a big way, don't dismiss it -- you have a positive responsibility to try to resolve the situation reasonably. If your roommate does something that bothers you in a big way, don't ignore it -- you have a positive responsibility to try to resolve the situation reasonably.
Consultation and Support is Available.
If you feel you are at an impasse or need support in these efforts, seek out consultation from your RCA. Your RCA can also help you find other sources of support and guidance.