Not everyone has practice living with other people. If you’ve ever been caught up in a passive-aggressive conflict – be it at home with a roommate or the workplace with a coworker – you know that one small exchange can ruin your mood for the day. That’s why we recommend a proactive approach when it comes to sharing space! You can’t control anyone else’s actions, but you can rise above pettiness and inspire people with positive behavior.
Here are our top 7 simple practices for building healthy relationships with the people you live with.
1. Communicate your needs to your roommate
As you’re getting to know your new roommate, help them learn who you are and what you need in your home life. If you go to bed early, let them know and ask them to keep the television and music down after your bedtime. Let them know before it becomes a problem, and remind them gently if they forget.
This has to work both ways—if they like to sleep in, let them. If you like to listen to music while you make breakfast, use your headphones. Don’t stomp around the house and slam doors in a rush to start your day. It’s just as rude to be loud early in the morning as it is late in the evening.
2. Establish your boundaries and respect theirs
If you enjoy board games or video games, you might prefer to keep them in the common room. Let your roommate know if you don’t mind sharing or if you prefer they ask first. These things can cost a lot of money, and you might not want them to be damaged. At the same time, it’s impolite to dominate the living area at all hours with your hobbies. Try to schedule times on shared resources like the TV or dinner table, don’t overstay your welcome, and when possible set aside time for roommate games.
The same goes for your favorite snacks and drinks. Maybe you don’t mind sharing – but if you’d rather not share, you don’t have to. Even when it’s a tough conversation, try to be open, honest, and upfront about your preferences.
3. Ask your roommate for permission instead of forgiveness
If you’re making a choice that could have a big impact on your roommate – like inviting friends over or making a huge meal – ask first. It’s really pretty simple! Not everyone is comfortable with strangers in their homes, and conflicting plans for shared resources can be uncomfortable for you and your housemates alike.
4. Be mindful of the space you take up
Leaving your clothes in the washer or dryer, leaving your dishes in the sink, and taking over the fridge with your food just isn’t considerate. You might think you’ll get to it soon, but you need to schedule time into your day to clean up as you go. If you find your roommate being short with you, look at the space you’re taking up. It’s hard to work around someone else’s mess. You should organize a system, so everyone knows which space is shared and which is theirs alone. If you have too much stuff, figure out how to organize it into your room or get rid of things, so you’re staying respectful of other people’s space needs.
5. Don’t force a relationship
It’s nice to say hi and chat about people’s day, but you won’t always be friends with your roommate. Some people require a lot more quiet time than others. If you’re in the mood to chat, there are other places to make friends in a new city. Find events going around in the area that interest you, and you’re likely to find people you have more in common with. It’s nice to invite your roommate along with you, but don’t pressure them into something they aren’t in the mood for.Living with Common means you can use our community areas to host events or easily contact other members through our app. There are plenty of friendly people new to the city that would love to hang out.
6. Don’t say yes when you mean no
You may want to be friendly when your roomie asks you for a favor or invites you to do something – but it’s just as important to be honest. It’s one thing to try something you’re nervous about, but it’s something else to say yes when you want to say no. If you’re not sure about something, tell them before you commit!In many housemate situations, ignoring your own needs has a way of turning into resentment. It’s not your roommate’s fault that you say yes to something – but it may start to feel like that if you aren’t open with your feelings.
7. Empathize (seriously!) with your roommate
We’re all a little sensitive about our living space, and it’s very easy to misunderstand your housemates’ intentions. So if someone is doing something that bothers you, don’t jump to conclusions. They probably mean no harm! People don’t always realize the consequences of their actions, and will likely stop something that’s bothering you if you let them know. Be kind with your words, but be clear. Saying, “This table is special to me, can we use a coaster?” is a clear way to communicate something without making someone feel defensive. Focus on your feelings, not on the other person’s actions. The point of communication is to foster understanding about yourself, not someone else. The more someone understands you, the more they can frame their actions with respect. Start good communication habits early and always act with empathy.