Ensure that your living situation is harmonious by dividing up chores equally.
If you're considering enrolling in an advanced degree program there is a fair chance that you've spent some time away from a college environment — maybe you moved home after your undergraduate career and started a new job, or settled into a new apartment with a trusted friend. In any case, it's likely that you've moved on from a communal living situation, wherein you share your bedroom or apartment or both with multiple other people.
If you are heading to graduate school as a full-time student, at a campus far from your current home, there is a strong chance that you will have to find new roommates who will likely be strangers. You'll have the option of finding a private apartment online or you may even find somewhere university-owned on campus. In any case, sharing a space with new people, although exciting, can also present problems. You may find that one or two roommates cause issues, or that your lifestyles and day-to-day habits simply do not mesh well. If you find yourself in a difficult living situation and experience strained relationships with your roommates you may be distracted from your studies and feel generally unhappy, which of course is not conducive to graduate school success.
Fear not, though. There are a number of strategies that you can implement to ensure your roommate relationships are as healthy as possible from the outset of your living arrangement. Furthermore, there are plenty of ways to resolve tension with roommates and strengthen communal living bonds in the process. Review the list below:
1. Keep things organized
One of the keys to a happy and healthy living situation is organization. After all, some of the biggest problems that arise between roommates involve a lack of delegation and organization with household chores and duties. For example, a disagreement may arise over someone not pulling their weight in terms of cleaning, or maybe another roommate constantly forgets to pay the electric bill and so on. As The Huffington Post detailed, the best way to avoid these issues is to create concrete plans for things such as chore completion and bill paying: Create a weekly chore spreadsheet, and then another one for bills and rent and so on, outlining who needs to complete what and when. The spreadsheets can be easily shared on platforms such as Google, and they make keeping on top of important deadlines far easier. You can even have reminders sent to everyone's smartphones.
2. Hold a meeting
Nobody wants to be "that" person — the overbearing individual who schedules meetings to set ground rules. But it can be a really effective strategy, especially if you do it within the first day or two of moving in, The Huffington Post explained. Have your roommates get together and chat through all important housekeeping issues: cleaning, the payment of rent and bills, noise levels, cleanliness expectations and so on. Use the time to set standards and expectations on which you all agree, and then make a pledge together to stick by your collective rules. This kind of open and honest communication, early on, will set you on the path to healthier roommate relationships.
3. Communicate face to face
Disputes and arguments are perhaps an unavoidable consequence of living in a shared space. And while you may not be able to avoid such occasions entirely, there are ways to deal with conflict to ensure the very best outcomes. Perhaps the most effective strategy is to have conversations face to face, U.S. News & World Report argued. We live in the smartphone age, and it can be comforting to deal with problems via the safety and remove of an online message, but hiding behind a screen won't help settle the problem. This is because it isn't always possible to express yourself properly through an online message – statements may be misinterpreted and the tone of what you are saying may come across differently than how you intended – exacerbating any tension and mistrust. The best way to deal with any problems is to meet and discuss the issue in person. You'll likely be more successful in making your point heard and you'll no doubt reach a resolution faster and with less drama, alleviating tension in the process.
"Effective communication involves listening."
One of the central tenets of effective communication is listening, Sarah Lawrence College explained. If you do find yourself in an argument or difficult conversation, be prepared to calmly sit down and listen to the other person's point of view. If you are able to do that, there is a good chance they will reciprocate. Once you have both started listening and talking in a calm and mature manner, you will find yourself overcoming the problem in no time.
5. Be mindful
While this article is designed to coach you on how to deal with potentially difficult roommates, there is of course a chance that maybe you could be the problem! The most effective way to ensure that you yourself do not become a troublesome roommate is to adhere to principles of respect at all times. This means being polite and keeping others in mind when it comes to things such as noise and cleanliness — always clean up after yourself and keep the noise to a minimum late at night. Of course, there will always be times when noise and mess can't be helped — perhaps you are planning a birthday party or having your study group over for dinner. If this is the case, be sure to inform your roommates ahead of time. In other words, keep the feelings of your roommates at the forefront of your mind whenever possible. It's the best approach if you want to avoid tension or disagreements.
6. Seek help
If you have persistent trouble with a roommate or roommates your only recourse may be to call in someone, preferably someone with experience, to mediate any disputes, Sarah Lawrence College argued. if you share an on-campus apartment, you will be able to seek the assistance of resident advisors, who have training in conflict resolution.
Of course, if you find yourself in a particularly dangerous living situation, wherein a roommate becomes abusive or breaks the law and so on, do not be afraid to seek help from professionals such as counselors, university officials and law enforcement if necessary.
Studying for an advanced degree can be draining enough without the added stress of a difficult living situation. However, following the tips above will likely increase your chances of reaching harmonious relationships with your roommates.