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Confronting your roommate may feel awkward, but it doesn’t have to be. Photo: Alamy

Annoying roommate? Here's how to deal with them without making dorm life awkward

Sharing a space with a virtual stranger at university can be challenging, but with tips and advice from the pros, it doesn't have to stay that way

We hate to be the ones to tell you, but having a roommate sucks. 

Sure, living with someone is an experience, a rite of passage, even. And who knows, you might end up liking your roomie enough to have a lifelong friendship – but that doesn’t mean you have to quietly suffer through their bad behaviour.

There’s nothing more irritating than coming home after a long day to find an extra body in your dorm or apartment, breathing your air and taking up physical space. Aside from just existing, your roommate probably has a habit (or 15) that you’re not particularly fond of. We’re talking leaving dishes in the sink, playing music too loudly and eating your food.

Learning to live with someone – and how to deal with the habits they bring with them – can be emotionally, physically and spiritually challenging, says Dr Angela Corbo, chair of the Communications Studies department at Widener University, in Pennsylvania, US.

Everything you need to know about sharing a room with someone for the first time

Here are some tips on how to deal with your roommate’s annoying habits without making things awkward at home.

Assess the situation

Is it really that serious? If you’re living in close quarters with someone, he or she is bound to get on your nerves at some point. So first figure out how important this point of contention between you and your roomie is.

“There are certainly plenty of big issues, especially those that impact your safety or sanity or ability to get a good night’s sleep, but many fall into the category of preferences or simply being different,” says Chris Grace, professor of psychology and director of the Centre for Marriage and Relationships at Biola University in California.

Corbo adds you should ask yourself a few questions before engaging in a conversation to discern if your problem is based on preference or necessity. For instance, “if a roommate neglects to make the bed in the morning, for example, ask yourself if that is something that will prevent you from having a productive day.”

Communicate effectively

Communication doesn’t just mean saying words to your roommate and hoping they start cleaning up after themselves. There’s communicating and then there’s effectively communicating — you want to do the latter.

Before choosing to confront your roommate, Grace says to take a minute and avoid speaking too quickly or too harshly. He suggests taking time to consider your roommate’s point of view and acknowledge their perspective as valid, which doesn’t have to be labelled as better or worse than yours, it’s just a differing perspective.

Corbo adds communication requires confidence and sensitivity. It’s important not to come off aggressively.

How to get along with difficult people and keep your cool

“It is one thing to say, ‘It is important to me to have the bed made each day because I feel like it signals the beginning of a new day,’ rather than, ‘I don’t know why you are so lazy and can’t pull up the comforter and blankets when you wake up.’”

She adds that addressing conflict can be uncomfortable and you may stumble in doing so. That’s OK.

It’s not awkward

Confrontation may appear to be awkward because people often view confrontation as a negative thing, but it doesn’t have to be that way says Grace.

She notes something psychologists call the “liking gap,” which she says people think that other people like them less after a conversation.

“This can lead people to feel awkward or disliked, when in reality almost everyone underestimates how much the other person actually likes them,” Grace says.

“Thus, more than we realise, our roommates probably like us more than we know, even when we have the inevitable, difficult conversation about differences.”

You also may need alone time to recover from a disagreement if it didn’t go as smoothly as planned.

“Learning to feel comfortable with a friend or roommate after a conflict requires maturity, humility and humour,” says Corbo. “Alone time may be necessary to recalibrate after a conflict but don’t avoid your roommate for too long. This extends the period of awkwardness and that can make the problem worse.”

This article was curated by Young Post. Better Life, the ultimate resource for enhancing your well-being, professional life, and personal finances.