Written by Celia Monroe
Step 1: Evaluation
Like in any plan of action, this first step is also the most important one. Of course, you’re reading this article because you have determined your roommate to be unacceptable and you want someone else to explain to you, in detail, how you should go about solving your problems. But before the problem can be fixed, you must first pinpoint what exactly the problem is.
Could it be that your roommate leaves their dirty laundry on the floor, along with guitars, umbrellas, and other tripping hazards? Do they place carefully folded notes containing violent threats on your pillow as an unpleasant shock before bed? Or maybe they simply sleep all day and all night, never leaving the room and causing you to become petrified by the idea of disturbing their slumber?
Whatever the reason may be, it has to exist before you can proceed with step two. So evaluate your situation. Sit down and really think about it. Make a list, if it pleases you. When you’ve completed your assessment then you may move on to step two.
Step 2: Decision
Now is the time to make a choice. After you’ve deliberated and over-thought certain situations to the point where you’re screaming at your roommate in your dreams, you need to ask yourself two questions. Is there a problem? And, if so, is the problem worth pursuing? If the answer to both of these is “no” then, as it turns out, you don’t actually have a bad roommate because good fortune has rained down upon you.
If you answered yes and then no, this means your problem is manageable and you shouldn’t complain so much. Now, if you discovered there is a problem and this problem can’t be pursued because the problem is yourself and not your roommate then, unfortunately, you’ve discovered that the bad roommate is, in fact, yourself. In this case, the only advice I can offer is to apologize for your entire self, stop being annoying, and move into a single room next year because no one wants to deal with you.
Finally, if you answered yes to both questions, and the problem isn’t you, then you have made the decision to move forward.
Step 3: Communication
With the decision now made, the first thing you can try is talking to your roommate. Catch them at a time that is convenient for them or even plan ahead so that no one is rushed, simply saying, “I need to talk to you about something. Is there a time that is good for you?” Once you are both present, confront them with the use of your words and explain to them what the problem is.
If you made a list in step one, use it. What you shouldn’t use, however, is an accusatory tone, a raised voice or profanity of any kind. Though you may get frustrated during the conversation and you might believe that one or all of these will remedy your sudden burst of anger, they won’t.
Instead, you could try a nice “I” statement or offer solutions instead of focusing on problems. If the conversation is not going well or your roommate is in a bad mood, stop the conversation and try again another day. If communication continues to go poorly or they ignore your attempts to talk altogether, then move on to step four.
If communicating with your roommate is too difficult or just downright impossible, then maybe it’s time to reach out to an impartial third-party member. This could be an RA, another roommate or an authority figure of some sort, depending on the situation and the issue.
If you don’t have a person like this, you might as well just skip to step five. If you do, then this person can hopefully help you out. Now, you might think that involving this third-party member is pointless or that it will offend your roommate or make you appear snobbish and rude, and all of these things might be true, but it’s always worth a try. In some cases, that third-party member is there specifically for these problems and would be happy to help. Take advantage of that.
Explain to them what the problem is and ask them, preferably nicely like the respectable human you are capable of being, if they wouldn’t mind taking the time to mediate. It’s possible that an authority figure, or simply a second person, will be successful where you were not, especially if your roommate is guilty of breaking any pre-established rules.
However, some roommates have been known to appear agreeable and compliant when faced with the third-party member and then reverting back to their old habits once the threat has left. So if the problem is still present, continue on to step five.
Step 5: Avoidance
When nothing else is working, it’s unlikely that your problems will be solved. At this point, you must simply survive. Avoidance is a great strategy when it comes to living with someone unbearable. Take a picture of their schedule, ask casual questions about their plans and be there when they are not.
Hang out with friends, hide in the library, get a job and be a normal college kid without money, join a club, lay outside and stare at the clouds like you’re in a bad movie until someone trips over you, whatever it takes. Much like alcohol, bad roommates can be easier to manage in smaller, more spread-out doses, so try to be in their presence as infrequently as possible.
Step 6: Survival
If avoidance is turning out to be more trouble than it’s worth or you’ve discovered that you’ve read all of the books in the library and you simply can’t avoid any longer, there are other ways to survive. Find someone to listen to your problems and complain. Whether it’s your mom or your dog or your third-best friend, venting to another living creature can often relieve stress and cause you to feel better, especially if they’re sympathetic to your situation and boost your ego by telling you that you’re always right and that your roommate is clearly an imbecile.
Crying can help too, if you’re the type of person who likes to wallow in self-pity while developing premature wrinkles and having the red eyes of a drug addict. It also helps to remind yourself that the situation is only temporary and that, by this time next year, you will no longer be forced to associate with your current roommate.
Step 7: Desertion
Finally, if you just can’t live with them anymore, then don’t. Move out. Leave. Hit the road, Jack, because it isn’t worth the effort.
After talking to multiple people about their own roommate experience, sometimes it’s best to live elsewhere. They said that it is well worth the trouble of re-packing to have a roommate that can actually be considerate of others. If the problem is serious and all of your other options have been exhausted, don’t feel the need to stick around.
And if your new roommate is just as bad as the old one, well, please refer to step one above.