The influence of roommates on one another is great. Your roommate will likely challenge your confidence, encourage you to become more tolerant and facilitate changes in your attitudes.  Roommates even affect each other’s study habits.  If you enter a room and your roommate is studying, chances are 3 in 4 that you will also sit down and study. If he/she is not studying, chances are only 1 in 3 that you will sit and study.   Roommate conflict and incompatibility are correlated positively with academic difficulty and low achievement. Likewise, roommate compatibility is associated with high achievement.  Furthermore, high achievers bring up low achievers, but the reverse is generally not true.

How can you enhance the effects of how you and your roommate influence each other?

Anticipate problem areas and discuss the ground rules.  At the very beginning of your relationship – before you become roommates, if possible – inventory your habits and preferences: smoking or non-smoking, tidy or casual, stay up late or get up early, alternative music or classical jazz, study alone or with others, etc.

Compromise. Work out strategies of compromise for your differences.

Express your satisfaction or dissatisfaction to your roommate as close to the pleasing or offending event as possible. When you are irritated or pleased with your roommate, express it directly and immediately.  Don’t store up resentments and explode when she/he commits a minor offense. Don’t discuss your roommate problems with others when you haven’t discussed them with your roommate.

Listen to his or her side. Recognize that there are at least two sides to every story. Hear your roommate out. Try to see things from his/her perspective rather than jumping to conclusions.

Seek out the help of a neutral third party if you hit an impasse. Most problems can be resolved or alleviated. If you can not work out the situation with your roommate – and you’ve actually tried doing so instead of assuming that it can not be done – ask assistance from someone who will be objectives, such as a mutual friend, who is not directly affected by the situation, or a resident advisor. This person can meet with you and your roommate to help you resolve the problem.

Let the experience(s) teach you valuable lessons. Living with a roommate can be an excellent experience in learning more about yourself and about how to communicate and relate effectively to others. Knowing how to assert yourself and how to empathize with others are valuable skills in all relationships – family, social, school, and work.