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How to be a good roommate

Some 9,000 students will reside in on-campus housing this spring, the vast majority of whom will be living with roommates. To help students make the most of living in a shared space, we talked with residence director Emily O’Brien and then compiled this list of useful tips.

Keep calm and talk it out

Don’t let problems fester and build up over time. When something is bothering you, have an honest conversation and offer up suggestions instead of complaints. If you’re stuck doing the dishes all the time, voice the effect it has been having on you—perhaps you’re concerned about keeping the space clean for the guest you’ll soon be hosting—and discuss specific steps to create a more harmonious living environment.

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Start a tradition

You don’t have to be best friends with your roommates, but you should make an effort to get to know them. Start a tradition together, like having dinner once a week, or make time to discuss class and co-op. If you’re having friends over, invite your roommates to join in every once in a while.

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Avoid confrontations with your roommate’s significant other

If you have a problem with your roommate’s significant other, hash out the issue with your roommate instead on confronting the boyfriend or girlfriend. Make it clear that you’re happy for them, but be honest about how their behavior is impacting you and then make productive suggestions.

If, for example, your roommate’s significant other eats your food without asking you, discuss the possibility of making a space in the refrigerator for him. If he’s over seemingly every night of the week, suggest that he and your roommate spend some time at his place instead.

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Treat your roommate how you want to be treated

Be the type of roommate you would want to live with. The model roommate puts his phone down, closes Facebook, and has a conversation with the people he is living with. He addresses conflict early and often and gives feedback, focusing on what is and what is not working. He avoids passive aggressive notes and texts, which can be difficult to decipher, and chooses to have face-to-face conversations instead.

Remember to understand that your roommate is not out to get you; in many cases, your roommate is probably not even aware that his actions have been impacting you negatively.

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Seek guidance from your residence director

If you and your roommate cannot hash out your differences on your own, ask your residence director to facil­i­tate a dia­logue and draft up a room­mate con­tract aimed at pre­venting future con­flict. Formal mediation is a really good tool, one that not enough students utilize.

While changing your room assignment may be an option, remember that you’re likely always going to be living with someone in some capacity. It’s important to learn that your behavior impacts others people, that sometimes you just have to admit when you’re wrong and apologize.

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