The most important aspect of any relationship, and especially for living with someone, is communication. It is important to begin your experience as roommates with a strong foundation of open communication. This will minimize initial problems while serving as a useful method for handling any issues that may arise. Knowledge of these fundamental aspects of communication can smooth the way to a happy and healthy living situation.
Communication includes both verbal and nonverbal messages.
The different parts of the message you convey have different levels of effectiveness in influencing the lister:
- Words Used: 7%
- Tone of Voice: 33%
- Nonverbal Cues: 55%
Although it's wise to choose your words carefully, how you say them is even more important.
Not only will you want to make your feelings known to your roommate, but being an active lister will be key to creating a healthy and open atmosphere for all parties involved.
- Understand your own communication style so that you can adapt to the styles of your roommate.
- Don’t let yourself drift off while listening: you expect your roommate to hear and respect what you have to say, so try to extend the same kindness to them.
- Nonverbal communication is just as important when you are an active listener as when you are speaking. Your roommate will notice nonverbal cues of whether or not you are interested in the conversation and paying attention.
- Negative cues may discourage your roommate and block further attempts at communicating.
- Give feedback to show that you have been listening actively, but wait until your roommate has finished conveying his/her message.
- If your roommate asks you to just listen and is not looking for a response, do your best to respect those wishes.
As a good communicator you should be direct, courteous and calm. Spare others your unsolicited advice and acknowledge that what works for you may not work for others. Be sure to state your main points first and then offer details if necessary. Listen for hidden feelings and take note of nonverbal cues from the other person.
Putting it into Practice
You can practice active listening and get to know you roommate at the same time. Sit down together and tell each other a story about yourself. These steps will give you an idea of your listening style as well as showing what improvements could be made.
- Listen closely to the story without interrupting.
- Once your roommate is finished, repeat the story back to him/her. This doesn’t have to be word for word but should include the main points of the story.
- Have your roommate confirm if your rendition was accurate.
- Ask expansive questions to learn more details.
Experiencing Roommate Conflict?
Don’t worry if you find yourself in conflict with your roommate(s). Remember that disagreements are inevitable, especially when people live together and interact everyday. Don’t be afraid to talk with your roommate(s) about what is bothering you. By working through the situation in a productive way, you will be able to find a solution that meets everyone’s needs.
No matter how hard we try, communication sometimes breaks down. Here are some clues that you have a breakdown of communication on your hands:
- Your roommates are not speaking
- They leave when you enter
- They complain to friends about you
- They get angry over trivial matters
- They won’t talk to you
These are just a few of the signs that trouble is brewing. Take the initiative by talking with your roommate(s) to try and understand what the problem may be. It could just be a small issue that could easily be resolved, or it could be a larger matter that everyone must work together to solve.
Sometimes there are roommate combos that just don't work out...
Even close friends find that they cannot live together. It is better to save a friendship than force a living arrangement. If you and your roommates have made an honest but unsuccessful effort, you may decide that you cannot live together. It may be better to separate than to continue living in an uncomfortable situation. An uncomfortable living situation can lead to a decrease in school attendance, homework completion, and health. Before coming to a final conclusion, consider consulting an outside source, such as your RA or RD [if you're in Biola housing], a trusted friend, professor, or other responsible person who can assist you as you work through difficulties and transitions.