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Don’t Wait . . . Communicate!

How to Communicate with Your Roommates
Get Talking
When Offended
Roommate Council
Get Talking
When Offended
Roommate Council
Get Talking
When Offended
Roommate Council

Get Talking

Female roommates all gathered together in the kitchen talking to one another.
Differences abound in an apartment. From interests to backgrounds to tolerances we have inherent differences. That’s OK! Our differences can make our apartments strong and resilient. But, we must communicate – early and often. Remember, if you don’t speak up, you’re bound to be disappointed.

Below are some important topics that should be addressed within the first few days of a semester and revisited often. This Roommate Council Template may help you keep track of your goals. Be willing to compromise when necessary to make sure everyone is comfortable and happy in your shared space.

Sharing

Jake’s Ice Cream

What is okay to share and what isn’t?

  • Are you planning to share cleaning supplies, dish detergent, toilet paper, and other disposable household items?
  • Is it okay to use one another’s dishes? Under what conditions?
  • Are you okay sharing food, clothing, or other personal items?
  • Are there things you don’t want to share or need to give permission for others to use?
  • Watch the video entitled "Eating Jake’s Food."

Cleaning

Early Riser
Late for Curfew

Many apartment conflicts are rooted in differences in cleanliness standards.

  • What are your expectations for keeping the apartment clean? Can you all agree to some middle ground?
  • Perhaps the “cleanest” and “messiest” roommates in the apartment may need to both concede a bit and step up so everyone is comfortable.
  • What requirements does the complex have for clean checks and how will you divide the work among you?
  • Acts of service and helping roommates clean when they are strapped for time can alleviate stress and conflict, soften hearts, and build surprisingly strong bonds of love. It often takes less time to clean up an area of concern than it does to worry about it, leave reminders, and/or complain to others.
  • Review some tips for keeping the apartment clean.

Schedules

Try to get on the same page and familiarize yourselves with each other’s schedules. This carries both practical and meaningful benefits.

  • Discuss sleeping hours, showering times, washer and dryer schedules, and class and work schedules. Watch the video entitled "Early Riser."
  • When does noise need to be at a minimum?
  • How will you help one another keep curfew? Watch the video entitled "Late for Curfew."
  • What about scheduling roommate time?
  • Can you schedule daily, weekly, or monthly apartment traditions like apartment prayer, Sunday dinner, game night, date night, or something that will help you build and strengthen roommate relationships?

Guests

Mary and Jim

Having people visit is a highlight of the college experience. Establish appropriate expectations so that everyone feels comfortable – both roommates and guests.

  • Consider the importance of keeping the campus visitation hours out of respect for roommates’ privacy.
  • Discuss the use of shared spaces when guests visit. Try not to monopolize these spaces.
  • How can you support one another in the standard of not having members of the opposite sex in the bedrooms?
  • How will you kindly remind one another when a roommate crosses a boundary without embarrassing them or their guest?
  • Consider behaviors of guests that may be uncomfortable for others in the apartment and talk about them in advance (e.g., guests entering without knocking, helping themselves to food, broadcasting their own music, putting on their own shows or movies, expressing physical affection to girlfriends or boyfriends in the apartment, etc.). Watch the video entitled "Mary and Jim."
  • Be friendly and welcoming to all guests – they might be the source of future friendships and expand your social circle.

Media and Entertainment

0:00 / 0:00
Video Companion
Things as They Really Are

The apartment culture hinges on the practices, behaviors, and habits of all roommates.

What you watch and listen to can have a huge impact on the overall spirit and feeling of the apartment. The amount of time spent on devices rather than engaging directly with others can also affect relationships and apartment culture.

  • Entertainment and media choices (including video games) can either galvanize and unify an apartment or be highly divisive. Discuss how you will ensure that media choices are inclusive and contribute positively to building relationships.
  • Review For the Strength of Youth: A Guide for Making Choices as an apartment to help guide a discussion on appropriate media and entertainment.
  • Talk about noise levels and shared use of the TV and gaming devices.
  • Discuss the following questions as presented by Elder Bednar in the following video:
  • Does the use of various technologies and media invite or impede the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost in your life?
  • Does the time you spend using various technologies and media enlarge or restrict your capacity to live, love, and serve in meaningful ways? Are roommates engaging in the apartment conversations and activities over being in their rooms on their own media?

When Offended...

two roommates talking
The Savior taught us a pattern for resolving offenses or concerns with others in Matthew 18.

Matthew 18:15

boys foursome council.jpg

If someone offends you, go to the person directly “between thee and him alone.”

The way in which you approach the situation, however, is highly significant and can make all the difference. You are more likely to have a favorable interaction if you go directly to the person of interest “in a spirit of mildness and meekness with a voice full of kindness and love” (President Kim B. Clark, “Building Zion Together,” BYU-Idaho Devotional, Sept. 15, 2009).

The Savior affirms that “if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother [or sister].”

Matthew 18:16

But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more.”

This counsel is not intended to gang up on the person. Take someone with you who has the best relationship with the person – a friend, a room-roommate, someone with whom the person gets along best in the apartment. Most often, people respond positively to others with whom they have a good relationship and foundation of trust. Share concerns together and allow the person with the best relationship to invite any necessary change.

Matthew 18:17

Andrea and Heritage.jpg

And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church.”

If the first two steps do not work, you may need to involve others: perhaps an apartment manager, a campus employee, or a bishop or elders quorum/Relief Society leader.

Tips to Remember

Whatever step in the process you may be on, please remember the following:

  1. Don’t assume. Listen! Ask questions to understand, then seek to be understood.
  2. Avoid gossip. Seeking support from others through gossiping can often vilify a roommate unjustly.
  3. Be quick to forgive. We all need the mercy and forgiveness of others for our own mistakes.
  4. Be solution-oriented. Time spent discussing solutions is much more productive than fault finding.
  5. Show an increase of love. Withholding friendship or treating someone differently after they have made a mistake does not allow the full measure of the Atonement of Jesus Christ to work for either of you.
  6. Be a peacemaker. Contention will not lead to healthy and happy relationships. “[It] drives away the Spirit – every time. Contention reinforces the false notion that confrontation is the way to resolve differences, but it never is. Contention is a choice. Peacemaking is a choice. You have your agency to choose contention or reconciliation. I urge you to choose to be a peacemaker, now and always.” (President Russell M. Nelson, “Peacemakers Needed,” General Conference, April 2023).

Roommate Council

Male roommates sitting around the kitchen table talking to one another.
A Roommate council is just a formal way of saying talk, listen, and take a genuine interest in the lives of your roommates. Roommate councils are not simply a reaction to apartment problems.
President Ballard discusses the importance and benefits of roommates gathering to counsel together.

Importance and Benefits of Roommate Councils

Use Roommate Councils to connect, communicate, and counsel together. Consider addressing the topics in the Get Talking section – especially at the beginning of the semester. You may choose to use one of the council or goal sheets below to guide your discussion. Then, when concerns or issues do arise, you have a foundation of understanding and positive communication to help resolve them.

The following questions are only examples of what you can ask when talking together. The best questions will be those inspired by the Spirit for you and your roommates.

Questions to guide a roommate council:

  • How are things going in our apartment and is there anything specific we need to discuss?
  • What is happening this week for each of us and how can we support one another?
  • Is there a time this week (or over the next couple of weeks) when we can do something together as an apartment? What will we do?
  • Can we set some meaningful goals that will positively impact our apartment? (See the goal sheet below to help you in this effort.)

Remember, listening without interrupting and consciously promoting the participation of each roommate will allow for open and direct communication, foster a spirit of love and respect for one another, and allow you to create a positive culture in your apartment and resolve concerns in compassionate ways.

Download a PDF to post on your wall
Download a PDF to post on your wall

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Check out the Building Relationships and When Offended sections for additional ideas regarding positive communication.