5 ways to be a better roommate

Rona Keller

My sophomore year of college I found myself living in a small, four bedroom apartment with two friends from high school and another girl I had yet to meet. Always having been somewhat of a loner, I was anxious about sharing a living space with three girls who, I later found out, were much more into the “going out” scene than I was.

I preferred to spend my Fridays and Saturdays taking a breather from the week of classes.

I originally thought this was a death sentence that would keep any type of real friendship from developing. Now, a year later, I’ve found that I was completely wrong. Not only did I survive, but I made great and lasting friendships with these three wonderful girls.

Here are five tips on how to keep your cool under the constant pressure to be social in college, and how to actually bond with your roommates:

1. Nobody believes your excuses. I pulled the “I’m not feeling well” card more than a few times those first few weeks after moving in. I declined each invitation to go out, finding that I was exhausted just from the thought of it. I quickly realized that honesty is the only real thing that would enable me to keep friends.

After telling my roommates how I really felt about going out so regularly, they stopped pressuring me. Sure, they’d jokingly make fun of me when I was in my pajamas by 8 p.m. on the weekends, but it was clear that all of us were happier when I was real with them.

2. The more you refuse invitations, the more anti-social you actually become. All introverts are tired of being called antisocial when they decline invitation after invitation to hang out. We know that it’s not that we’re antisocial, we just need more alone time… right? Of course this is usually the case, but I found out that the more I shrugged off an invite to a night on the town, the closer to antisocial I actually became.

If you’re living with extroverted roommates, chances are they’re putting up with a lot of your need to be alone and have peace and quiet. Do you owe them a night out every once in a while? You might have more fun going out than you think you will. You might be exhausted by the time the night’s over, but the fun, memories, and bonds that you’ll make with your roommates are more than worth it.

3. Your temperament doesn’t make you better (or worse) than someone else. I’ve come across more than a fair share of introverts who actually think they’re “better” than extroverts. They define themselves as deeper and more mature people than extroverts. If you want to have friends, I can tell you that you need to get rid of that idea ASAP. It’s important that friends who are different define those differences to avoid conflict, but neither type of person should feel superior to the other.

Different does not mean better or worse. If you’re happy and doing what’s best for you, it doesn’t matter what type of people your friends are. Let them decide what’s best for them, and you do the same for yourself.

4. Your roommates are fine the way they are. All introverts know the frustration of being pressured to go to a party when all you really want to do is lie on the couch staring at the ceiling. Would you want to put your roommate through the same feeling? One of my roommates decided she wanted to hold a party at our apartment for her birthday. The idea gave me major anxiety. I wouldn’t be able to retreat to my own living space when I needed to be alone.

But I knew this was important to her. Just because I would have preferred a small gathering with friends during daylight hours, doesn’t mean that she would. It would be just as unfair for me to pressure her into changing her party plans as it would if she had done the same to me. As long as the environment is safe and under control, what will one night of partying hurt?

5. Remember that the college culture caters to extroverts, so listen to your own needs. Although I have suggested broadening your horizons, I do believe it’s important to never let yourself become unhappy. Successfully living with roommates who are different from you (and actually creating friendships with them) requires big compromises and some sacrificing.

This does not mean that you need to give up or change who you are. As an introvert, the college environment presents itself as a major challenge. It’s really a culture created by extroverts that caters to extroverts. Remember to stay true to who you are. Sure, you could loosen up and allow yourself to be surrounded by people to the point where you feel like you can’t breathe. But never let the pressure of going out chip away at your happiness. If you are honest and firm with your roommates about who you really are, they are hopefully unlikely to try to change you, and they’ll be able to relate to you on a more authentic level.

Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured… Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.  Susan Cain

Image credit: Rona Keller


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