7 Ways to Promote Better Communication Between You and Your Roommates

By Julia Dunn

Living on campus can be extremely challenging for college students. They’re away from their families and friends at home, and now they must share a small single room with people they only know from the university Facebook group. You might not know your roommates at all before move-in, but communicating with them will only be challenging if you allow it to be; here are seven ways to promote better communication between you and your roommates.


Roommate Finder: 7 Ways to Promote Better Communication Between You and Your Roommates  

1.) Create a group chat

Need an easy way to check in with roommates and let them know about details related to your shared room? Start a group chat! Depending on what you and your roommates prefer, you can use text messages or Facebook messenger to create a group that works for everyone.


2.) Learn more about their communication styles

This is one of the best ways to strengthen your bond with your roommates. Before you get too deep into week one of the semester/quarter, suggest to your roommates that you go out for coffee and chat about what each of you needs from one another in order to coexist peacefully. If one of you prefers in-person communication and another prefers using media (texting, email, even writing a letter), you should know that as early as possible. Understanding your roommates’ communication preferences can prevent misunderstandings or issues down the line.


3.) Leave messages for one another

An article by apartmentratings.com suggests two ways to communicate for roommates who might not all be in the same room together very often:  “A sticky note is a friendly way to leave a reminder and get a task started. For example, if a roommate doesn’t proactively clean, post a note like this, “Hey, I’m going to mop the floor today, want to tackle the bathroom? Text me!”

A dry erase board is [also] a fun way to share things; maybe one day it’s chore-duty and the next is an invite to your friend’s happy hour. If you want to get creative, there’s chalkboard paint that can be found at any hardware store.”

If you choose to go the sticky-note and whiteboard route, make sure your messages don’t come off as dismissive or angry. Some roommates really dislike coming home to their room and finding a note taped to their desk that calls them out for forgetting to take the trash out (again). The tone of a message can significantly affect the content, so use caution and talk to your roommates about whether they’re okay with these types of messages.


4.) Spend time together

The closer you are to your roommates, the easier it’ll be to communicate with them. Try to go on regular outings and adventures—get to know their interests and dislikes, pet peeves, and personal needs. For instance, you may not know right away that your roommate struggles to get homework done if it’s noisy in your room. Knowing what your roommates need is essential to living together with minimal discomfort.


5.) Make a habit of being direct

Never pretend everything’s okay if it isn’t. It only makes things worse—both for you and for your roommates who might be on the receiving end of any passive aggression you might be dishing out. If you express yourself right away when things turn sour, you can work as a team to generate a sustainable solution to the problem.


6.) Hold regular roommate meetings

It might sound a little silly, but holding the classic “family meeting” with your roommates can be a useful way to improve your communication. There’s nobody forcing you meet for an extensive amount of time--it could be 5 minutes--and it’s always helpful to check in even if things are going well. Things you might bring up at a roommate meeting:

●      “Is it okay if my friend Marie spends the night on Labor day?”

●      “Can we all remember to check that the fridge is closed all the way after we open it? It has trouble closing sometimes.”

●      “Where should we go to celebrate Halloween together?”

Checking in is never a bad idea!


7.) Reach out for support

Sometimes, conversations with your roommates might not go as planned. You might find that the presence of a third party could help facilitate your conversations. If you’re living in the dorms, you should have what’s called a Resident Assistant (sometimes called Community or Neighborhood Assistant)—a student leader whose job it is to maintain a healthy, happy community on your floor.


Usually, conflict resolution is a huge chunk of their job description, and that person should be well-trained in active listening and mediation. You can even choose to just consult with your RA one on one to prepare for a challenging confrontation with your roommates. RAs can be great sources of support and advice even if they don’t physically sit in on a particular roommate conversation.


Ultimately, the key to roommate communication is simple: be clear, be direct, and be compassionate for one another.

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