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The Why and How of Good Communication with Your Roommate

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Alabama chapter.

We all love our roommates. Well… most of us do. But whether you get along with your roommates or not, it’s important to have good communication skills with them. After all, you’re living with them! Honest communication with your roommate(s) is necessary for peace in your home away from home.  

We all do things that bother other people. However, the irritating behaviors of our roommates seems more amplified because we’re living with them. Due to the close quarters, it’s important to be honest with your roommate if they’re doing something that makes you uncomfortable. 

Whether it’s leaving a mess all over the apartment, blaring music at 2:00 AM, or allowing their partner to live in your one-bedroom dorm, you need to feel confident in talking with your roommate about things they do that make you uncomfortable. Let’s go through some steps to make this easier. 

The Why

Honest communication is critical to maintaining peace in our relationships. A study by the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that being honest with other people helps us experience more joy and peace in our relationships with them.

Unfortunately, the same study found that people often avoid telling the truth because we miscalculate the aftermath of honest conversations. We tend to think that being honest with someone will result in an awkward situation, or that the other person will be mad. However, this is rarely the reality. 

More often than not, telling the truth will result in an outcome far more enjoyable than before because both people are of the problem at hand. So, if you talk with your roommate about what’s been bothering you, know that telling them will likely result in a better living situation than saying nothing.

That said, the way that you communicate your thoughts with them matters. Good communication isn’t being passive aggressive, yelling, gossiping, or even texting. Good communication is face-to-face, confident yet gracious, with the goal of making your home more enjoyable. 

You don’t want to get stuck in an uncomfortable situation simply because you’re too afraid to have a conversation. While being honest can be awkward at times, the temporary discomfort of the conversation is far less than the discomfort of staying in the unpleasant situation. 

THE how

All of us come to college with different tastes and things that we are comfortable with. We can’t expect our roommates to have our same inclinations, but we can have reasonable conversations with them in hopes of reaching an understanding when they do something we don’t agree with.

A good way to start the conversation with your roommate about what’s bothering you is to ask them if you’ve been doing something that’s bothering them. Just as your roommate was likely unaware that they were causing a problem, you may be doing something that makes them uncomfortable. Ask them if this is the case. This way, whenever you tell them what’s been bothering you, they’ll know that you aren’t just being petty, that you care about their happiness, and that having a positive living environment is important to you. 

You can be honest without being mean. Some people are afraid that if they ask their roommate to change their behavior, it will end the friendship. That’s not the case! If handled well, the two of you can work out an agreement. Maybe they’ll be willing to turn off the loud music after midnight, or maybe their partner can spend the night only on the weekends instead of every night. 

Because college can be stressful, it’s important that you have a place where you can rest at the end of the day. If something that your roommate does is preventing that, then consider having a conversation with them about it. An improved relationship with your roommate and more rest at your home is worth the momentary awkwardness of having a conversation. Talking honestly about your feelings, inquiring about your roommate’s feelings as well, and being proactive about having good communication with your roommate will make college more fun and less stressful.

Sarah studies English at the University of Alabama and is from Hoover, AL. Her favorite things are writing poems, shopping, traveling, and spending time with her sister. She has about 20 plants in her dorm.