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Today's word on journalism

Monday, April 24, 2006

Dueling masters on words:

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary."

--William Faulkner, writer (1897-1962), on Ernest Hemingway, writer (1899-1961)

"Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?"

--Ernest Hemingway, writer (1899-1961), on William Faulkner, writer (1897-1962)

How to enjoy group living and avoid going to war against your roommates

By Megan Lisonbee

March 10, 2006 | It is a battle that all college students must fight year after year. There is the drudgery of classes, books and studying that weigh on the mind of every college student. But these well-known trials don't hold a candle to the difficulty that comes with having a new roommate.

Everyone has either heard or can share personal stories that would make your skin crawl about the horrible roommates they have had. There is no way around the fact that no matter who you live with there will be problems, but what many people don't realize is that there is hope. It is not as difficult as one might assume to have a successful roommate experience. With only a few simple roomie survival skills you can pull through the year, and who knows, you just might even enjoy yourself.

Skill 1: Just Talk About It

The first and most important step to surviving life with your roommate comes down to communication. You will be living with someone who has a completely different set of ideas and beliefs on the right way to do everything from sleeping, cleaning and unfortunately even hygiene. At the start of each school year, sit down with your new roommates and discuss how your home is going to be run. Cover details such as when quiet hours are, and how often and who will do what cleaning. Discuss personal habits and beliefs and decide who you best get along with, then share a room with that person. It is a good idea to make a roommate contract or agreement where you document all your decisions from your conversation. For a great example of such an agreement click here.

Communicating with your roomies does not stop here! It is important to keep this type of communication running throughout the whole year. Talk frequently and tell each other what is going well in your apartment and what could be improved. When your roomie decides to do something like rummage through your food and eat whatever they find, your first reaction will probably be less than kind.

Heather Harlson, a junior at Utah State University said that her solution to roommates stealing her food was to "clearly label your peanut butter with your name and a threat to kill the person eating it."

While the easiest solution to a roommate you are mad at may appear to be to treat them like crap, and do horrible things to their room, clothes or food, there may be a more appropriate way to handle the problem. People respond to sarcasm and anger with sarcasm and anger. It is amazing how quickly a small issue can escalate into a monstrous one. Small pet peeves or annoyances when kept inside will bubble and brew until finally you can't take it anymore and a huge explosion occurs all because your roommate wore your shirt. All it takes to solve your problem is to simply tell the person how upset it makes you. Now this is easier said than done. Open communication takes practice and often maturity to be able to face a frustrating situation and discuss it. But if you can learn to communicate, your roommate happiness will skyrocket. A web page by Kristin Feenstra discusses way to resolve roommate conflicts.

"My roommate had no idea how upset it made me when she left her school stuff all over the living room. It drove me crazy! But when I finally got up the guts to talk to her about it I realized she had no idea it was upsetting me and she stopped the next day," says Caitlin Maxfield, a sophomore at Utah State University.

It can be scary to confront your roommate about your frustrations, but it always yields positive results. Don't hesitate to work through problems!

Skill 2: R-E-S-P-E-C-T

The next step for survival is respect. Never heard that before, right? Just as mentioned before, these are simple steps. Remember that you are sharing living space now. Keep your school work and clothes out of the living area. Your room is your personal space but everywhere else is not. You have to respect other people and their space. Also understand that everyone has a different lifestyle. Some people prefer to do their homework between the hours of one and four in the morning, while others may choose to sleep during this time. Some people may want a clean kitchen to cook in. No matter how bizarre these things might be, you have to learn to work with it.

"My freshman roommates were the definition of pigs! Our guy neighbors even stopped coming over because it smelled so bad," said Kim Addison. "I hated my roommates because they were so messy and my roommates hated me for always getting on their case."

As much as one might hate to admit it, the old adage "treat others how you want to be treated," is an excellent rule of thumb when dealing with roomies new or old. If you treat your roommate with respect and consideration, chances are that they will return the favor. Although it may not be the easiest way out, it is certainly the right way. No matter how upsetting something your roommate does, you have to remember to treat them like they are people too. It is easy to forget that their way of life is not wrong, it is just different.

Skill 3: Chill Out

The final step to roommate success is to be willing to bend. No one can get their way all of the time. The idea of "my way or the highway" does not work with roommates. Everyone has to learn to relax a little. Dirty dishes in the sink does not require a screaming explosive fight.

"The roommates I loved the most were the ones who knew how to be chill! You have to remember that your roommate is not leaving her homework out because she hates you. Don't take things so personally!" said Andrea Wilson a graduate in interpersonal communication from the University of Utah.

You learn a lot about yourself when you live with others. The way you treat a roommate is a great reflection of the way you treat everyone, including the people you care about. By practicing communication, exercising respect and being a little flexible, you are sure to have wonderful roommates, and you will be one in return. For more tips to survive your roommates and yourself click here.

Extra Pointers

Now it is one thing to know what to do for a great roommate experience, but what about what NOT to do? For some humorous but not so good ideas try out this website.


Copyright 1997-2005 Utah State University Department of Journalism & Communication, Logan UT 84322, (435) 797-1000
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