Lessons I learned from having many, many roommates

In my years of living with different people, one thing I’ve learned is that I may not be the easiest person to live with. At first I didn’t see it. It can be hard to see your own flaws, especially when living with others. I’m clean, neat, respectful and fun to be around. However, my biggest flaw when having roommates is my easy ability to get annoyed, have a pessimistic attitude and my fear of change. I try my hardest to be happy, to let things go and go with the flow. But after a while, I always crack. Living as an INFJ (Meyers-Briggs Personality Type) and being a highly sensitive person, I am very sensitive to change and conflict. It is just something I have to work at.

In my 26 years, I went from living with my parents to living with a best friend in college, back home with the parents for a while, then living with an acquaintance to currently living with my best friend again and her fiancé. They were all very different living situations. Everyone has a different personality. Those personalities come out full force when you’re with someone every day. It is also different to live with people who you have a different relationship with. For example, It could be easier to say something you don’t really mean when you fight with your parents rather than an acquaintance.

So whether you live with your parents, your significant other, your best friend or a complete stranger, how do you deal with change, bad days or disagreements? Here’s what I learned.

Communication is key

It can sometimes be a hard balance between being a pushover or being a bulldozer. Some people will not care what you have to say or respect your words or boundaries. Remember, even if you feel like you’re in the right in the situation, there are two sides to every story. It is also okay to take a break. One of my roommates and I were having a disagreement and she would not listen to my point of view. Instead of blowing up, I asked for a time out to regroup to help us both calm down and think things through.

When you’re feeling upset with your living situation, take a step back

Assess your feelings without judging them or placing blame on anyone. Is this something you can easily let go or is it a recurring problem? If it is a recurring problem, is there anything you can do differently? If not, it is time to communicate with the person you’re living with. My suggestion is to ask them to take a walk. It puts less pressure on the both of you and the conversation can flow easier. The hardest part will be talking about the situation without placing blame or being rude. Try to talk about it when you’re feeling relatively good. That means not when you’re hungry, feeling ill, extremely angry or upset or annoyed.

When you sit down to talk about things, make sure to be gentle and not accusatory

Use phrases like “I feel” instead of negatives like “You don’t.” For example, “I feel anxious when the house is a mess. How can we keep it cleaner?” instead of “You never clean! The house is a mess and it makes me angry!” However, even if you say things in the nicest way possible, it can still feel like an attack for the other person, especially if they are always on the brink of conflict with everyone.

After you’ve talked, ask for any grievances they have

Remember they might feel attacked and make something up to hurt you. But chances are if you’ve told them how you feel in a calm way and asked them for help or what you can both do to make the living situation better, things will be resolved and you’ll both feel better that you communicated properly.

Try to remember that no living situation is permanent. If you think positive, every living situation can be fun and a learning experience. If you’re always aching to live alone, you might just miss those roommates when you finally do get your own place.

Lauren Stewart currently works for a nonprofit in Michigan and freelance writes. You can view more of her published work by visiting http://laurenrstewart.weebly.com/

[Image via CBS]