When you first move into a dorm, co-living apartment, or shared house - you most likely had very little interactions with the people you are about to live with. Most co-living spaces don't prioritize the people match and after you get more familiar with each other after moving in, tensions can flare up due to unexpected differences that were not communicated in advance.
So what can you do in such situations to have a happy and healthy living experience?
While You're In The Situation
If you're reading this, you're probably dealing with a bad housemate at the moment. No fear - we're here to share with you the best practices to help you overcome this unfortunate situation.
When you are upset, it's easy to see everything as important. When you're dealing with someone with different values than you do make sure to consider the following:
- Do you know why they are behaving this way?
- Ask them without being accusatory - seek to understand so you can gain empathy for their actions.
- Often times you may learn that it was just lack of knowledge on how their actions were affecting other people.
Ask Them Gently To Consider Your Needs
In everyday conversation, how you act, how you talk, and the words you choose are all important. Help your housemates take your needs into account, you should talk to them gently and explain what you want.
- Let them know how you feel when they take certain actions, and how it negatively affects your well-being.
- Offer solutions that can help them achieve what they want while not infringing on your freedoms.
- It's important to remember that you're not the only one who matters, so don't expect that all of your needs will be met.
- Healthy relationships are maintained with give and take.
Talk With A Third Party Mediator
If you find that problems are repeating themselves, and / or tensions are rising, try to:
- Find a neutral third party to help conversations stay calm and collected.
- Ask them to evaluate the facts, and prioritize what will be a win-win for the house.
Sometimes there really are irreconcilable differences. That's OK. Choose to deal with better people.
- Finding your people may take some time, but once you do, you'll have the best of both worlds.
- You will not only enjoy the most suitable environment for you, but also the company of individuals who share your values.
- So get out there and enjoy the adventure or family that awaits you.
How To Protect Yourself
The best defense against "housemates that suck" is to take pre-emptive action. No one is perfect, but here's how you can engage with others at their best.
Choose a Co-Living Space That Values The People
When looking for the right place to live, its important to know who lives there so to explore your housemate fit more deeply before moving in.
- Make sure you meet the other housemates and get a good feel of their personality and living habits.
- Ask them what they expect out of a housemate, and make sure you also communicate your expectations as well.
- Find out what each member is looking to give and take from the home, and explore how your needs will fit in.
Be In An Environment That Lowers The Potential For Conflict
The less opportunities you have for conflict, the better. Most conflicts are borne out of a lack of care for shared belongings and common spaces.
- Prioritize for rooms with your own private bathroom.
- Find rooms with enough private space to hang out in when you don't want to be social.
- Only share things you don't mind being broken and set an expectation for when something should be returned.
Establish House Rules
House rules help codify behaviour and ensure everyone operates at their best self whenever possible. Have rules like:
- No loud music, etc. past 10pm.
- Dishes should be cleaned as they enter the sink and not to be left overnight.
- Enter no one's room or touch their belongings without their permission.
- When inviting guests, make sure they follow the house rules.
Have Weekly Meetings
Set up time to bond with your housemates and create shared moments of reflection with each other.
- Talk about what you appreciate about each other.
- Be pre-emptive with things you can do better to improve the home.
- Ask for help from others to help make your experience better.
At our Family Without Borders, we take pre-emptive action to facilitate a healthy culture in our homes because we want to be excited to hang out with the people we live with, and value the interactions and experiences we share with each other. Since our inception, we've maintained an amazing experience where mutual respect is the norm and we take care of each other as well as the house we live in.
Instead of ships passing through the night, we play active, engaged roles to help each other on our growth journeys and level up together.