Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Awkward Roommate Meeting

Jerry from New York asks...
I've just moved into a new apartment with a friend. Is there anything I can do now to prevent future resentment building up about cleaning, public-space sharing, etc, without having an Awkward Roommate Meeting?  
Is it wrong that I assume this question is from Jerry Seinfeld himself?

Well, Jerry, potential problems in your situation will be due to expectations that are not being met. This means some type of communication will have to take place so that each of you knows what is expected of you. Don’t worry though. If we can identify exactly what would make such a conversation awkward, we can then remove the awkwardness with surgical precision.

Begin by looking over your rental agreement, if you have one, and make sure you are following everything outlined in it. If you are meeting the basics like paying rent on time and no loud music after 1 am you’ll be in a good position to discuss things like taking out the trash and cleaning common areas (kitchen, living room, bathroom, garage, ballroom, elevator, gymnasium, etc…)

To tackle your question, let’s go over the Awkwardness Potential (AwkPot) and possible solutions.

AwkPot: Strong feelings of contempt already exist before beginning the conversation. 

Solution: Talk about your expectations as ASAP as possible. If you’ve already been tracking mud through the house for three months, (because you were raised in a home with no carpet and your mom just sprayed down the floors twice a week) when you finally talk about it, your roommate just might explode. The road to conversational Hades will be paved with your good intentions.

AwkPot: Feeling like you’re either telling a friend what to do, or being told what to do.

Solution: At least in the beginning, only offer suggestions of what YOU might do to help make living together easier. Have some ideas before you start talking about it. Don’t ask, “What can I do?” That just makes it difficult for your roommate. Instead, let him know, that if he thinks of anything, he can talk to you about it. Hopefully your roommate will follow your lead and think of things he can do also. Once an environment of self-improvement is established, it will be less awkward to suggest ways each other could improve.

AwkPot: Having a scheduled “roommate meeting” is just inherently and unavoidably awkward.

Solution: Don’t have an official meeting. Just casually say something like, “Hey dude, being friends and roommates is pretty cool, so I’ve thought of some stuff I can do to make it stay cool.” Or you can say something like, “My dear comrade, I fear that due to our varying upbringings, we may have incongruent expectations that, if left uncorrected, could harm this lovely arrangement we presently enjoy. Let us join together in a friendly, yet frank, collaboration to preemptively resolve any and all future friction that could be reasonably foreseen.”

Even if there is a little bit of awkwardness, remember that in the hierarchy of emotions, a little bit of awkwardness is better than a lot of resentment.

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