Communication with Roommates

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Everyone’s perception of college life means loads of homework, hanging out with friends, all-nighters, and having the best roommates.  However research shows that the main downfall of a college experience is dealing with roommates that don’t get along. Living with a roommate can either be a nightmare or the time of your college life. A recent poll from George Long, a student at the University of Maryland, showed that 76.7 percent of roommates didn't get along with each other. A good communication skill is the main key to successful living with a roommate. Many people believe that if two best friends move in together than they can avoid this issue. But that won’t solve it, without good communication any friendship can become a messy situation.  Qualities that make a friend aren’t the same qualities one needs to become a roommate and this is what people don’t realize. In order to have a healthy household the roommates should both be sure they have excellent communication skills by improving them, being aware of nonverbal communication, and not being afraid to confront a situation.

Many people claim they have good communication skills but not many know the actual meaning of what is to be considered good communication skills mainly because they don't know how to improve them. If everyone that has claimed they have “good” communication skills actually possessed them then there wouldn't be a large percentage of roommates with poor living situations. Coming into FIDM, a private fashion college, I realized how many people go through roommates. I have experienced being there when a friend of mine, Stephanie has had a bad roommate experience which almost lead to violence. Being the viewer of the situation I concluded that both the individuals were communicating with anger and didn't acknowledge one another. Having a bad roommate means dealing with challenges that are unnecessary and unhealthy. The only solution to this problem is for the sender (speaker) and receiver (listener) to improve their communication skills with one another. In reality once you have a roommate you’re most likely stuck to be in a lease with them for a long period of time and communication is the only solution. According to David’s Communication Research Paper on, “the sender should try to see things from the receiver’s point of view but the sender should also make themselves clear and make sure that the right message is being understood with communication both parties need to do some work in order to progress.” As the receiver they can improve their communication by listening carefully and asking questions to not assume that they understand what is being said. “To understand communication, you need to understand the moves people use as they work out there relationship to one another” (Trenholm 32).

Communication doesn’t only involve verbal language, but nonverbal communication is involved as well. Research shows that nonverbal behaviors make up a large percentage of our daily communication. According to Gareth R. Jones and Jennifer M. George’s book, Contemporary Managements, nonverbal communication is “the encoding of messages by means of facial expressions, body language, and styles of dress.” It doesn’t take special training to understand the basics of nonverbal communication but being aware of not only your own but other’s nonverbal language can take some training. Many people tend to have less control over their nonverbal communication, for example, according to a British Broadcasting Corporation report “when someone crosses their arms and legs while standing can imply that a person wants to be left alone.” However, if another person carries this same body language except when they are sitting and not standing than it implies empathy or sympathy. This is where nonverbal communication can get a bit tricky. By analyzing people, one can automatically improve nonverbal communication.
The biggest problem in both forms of communication is confronting the situation. This is where situations get ugly and out of hand. After interviewing Stephanie about her situations with two roommates in which she encountered poor communication, the biggest issue didn’t seem to be her verbal or nonverbal communication skills but confronting a problem by avoiding an argument was. Every time Stephanie would confront her roommate about a situation it would end up as an argument which causes the problem to worsen. Sometimes she made the mistake of writing a text message instead of confronting her roommate in person; this is a big red flag. It’s hard for people to understand tone through a text; it can easily be taken out of context. This is why tone of voice falls into nonverbal communication. In Stephanie’s situation, she has gotten violent with her roommates but there have been times where it was just two feet away of becoming violent.

According to James Robson, a student at the University of Texas the reasons this is a huge problem now is because society “isn't accustomed to sharing.” With college experiences comes the learning of new habits. Families are getting smaller but houses are getting bigger allowing people to have their own rooms instead of sharing with a sibling to learn how to deal with the habits of one another. Stephanie comes from a household where she is the only child; she’s used to do anything and everything she wants without having anyone tell her otherwise. The best thing to do in a situation like this is to confront the roommate in person as soon as there is a situation arising. Confronting a person can automatically start a discussion either good or bad depending on how well the problem is being confronted with communication skills. The best way to confront someone is to start with stating the problem and letting the roommate know how they feel. Being specific and making sure everything is understood can lead a way out of a rising argument. Nonverbal communication also plays a part in confronting someone. In order to avoid an argument be sure to not attack the receiver by watching how the tone of your voice sounds. Nonverbal and verbal communication work together to convey a message and you don’t want the receiver to convey false information like in Stephanie’s situation. Stephanie not only presented information poorly but when she is the receiver of a message she falsely interprets the information. For example, her roommate didn't enjoy the fact that Stephanie always liked to have people over to hangout. Her roommate liked to just relax in their own home peacefully at least a few days out of the week but with Stephanie always having people over it made her roommate upset. Her roommate would nicely ask her a few times but Stephanie continued to have people over and the situation just got worse from there. The main ingredient to a healthy argument is to get the root of the problem in a way that the sender and receiver can be happy with the outcomes.

Poor communication with roommates is the main cause of roommate problems and not being able to enjoy a college experience. If something is bothering you than let your roommates know by communicating and even though the hardest part is to confront, it will make it a lot easier the sooner the problem is being brought up. Just by doing this one step it can avoid losing a roommate and going through unnecessary stress and ruining a great experience. After talking to your roommate recap what has been talked about so you’re both on the same page. Because Stephanie is an only child she needs to improve on her communication skills in a living household. She has excellent communication skills except when it comes to a living situation. The only way for a relationship to grow is to open all forms of communication. Communications is the key to success, and never assume that a roommate understands everything you say, “They assume the other person is going to have the same needs that they have, but that not the case. You don't have to like each other, just respect each other” (Robson).


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