College often gives a sense of freedom — freedom, which is sometimes stifled by a bad roommate relationship.
Judith McKay, J.D., Ph.D., chair of the department of multidisciplinary studies in the Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences and assistant professor of conflict resolution, said the best way to start a good relationship with a roommate is to communicate who you are, where you’re from, and whether you’ve ever had a roommate. Be open and don’t make assumptions, she said.
McKay said being good roommates doesn’t mean the parties have to be best friends. She said that not being close friends can be relaxing and offer a chance to meet new people.
“You don’t have to be best friends. You just have to get along,” McKay said.
Chris Carbo, counselor in residence at the Office of Residential Life and Housing, said that conversation is key.
“Understand that it’s a relationship. You’re in the same room all the time,” he said. “Expect arguments and problems that a normal relationship has. You don’t know someone until you live with them.”
McKay said if problems appear, talk.
“If they know they are bothering you, they may think it’s OK if you don’t say anything. People don’t come with crystal balls,” she said. “Other people teach us more about ourselves than they teach us about them.”
Nicolas Dolan, junior marketing major, is familiar with roommate issues.
“My worst experience with (my roommate) was lending him $800 of rent money over the time we lived together, and then he did not pay me back until about six months later after we stopped living with each other,” Dolan said. “I kept following up with him until I was finally able to get him to send me a check for the money I lent him way after we stopped living together.”
Communicating effectively involves being assertive without being aggressive, McKay said.
“A proper statement is, ‘It wakes me up when you come in at 2 a.m. I feel like you’re not respectful of me.’ ‘I feel’ states emotion, but doesn’t blame,” said McKay.
McKay said compromising is a good aspect in conflict resolution and that individuals must also resolve the issue within themselves.
“In a conflict, you have three choices. One, you can shove everything in your ‘closet,’ which will burst and come back to haunt you. Two, you can escalate it and risk getting in a fight. Three, deal with it by talking — this is healthiest,” McKay said.
Carbo, said people’s differences pose potential tension between roommates.
“People come from different backgrounds and cultures,” he said. “Some have never lived with a roommate, and when expectations don’t go as planned, they start having difficulty. Throw expectations out the window.”
NSU provides assistance through student counseling and med-iation. For more information, contact the Student Mediation Services at (954) 262-7196 or the Residence Counselor at 954-262-8911.