Being assigned to live with an outgoing, social roommate can be a source of potential conflict for a quiet, reserved student. Introverts and extroverts view the purpose of their residence hall room differently. While a less outgoing student sees the room as a home and a private place, her roommate may see the room as a place to crash between social activities—or even the place to continue those activities. Quiet students want their room to feel safe and relaxed, while the socialite may see the space as a scene for entertaining. Quiet students do not want their roommates to bring the social world into their home, and an extrovert is disappointed when her roommate doesn't welcome social opportunities.
Changing rooms is not always an option, and it may not be the best decision. Even though two students may appear to be exact opposites, they have the potential to become respectful roommates or even good friends. Parents can encourage their student to discuss differences and boundaries with the roommate as soon as they become obvious. Here are some tips to start with:
- Students can agree to keep movies and music on headphones unless both are explicitly watching or listening to it.
- For phone calls, roommates can talk on their cell phone in the hallway or in other parts of the building where they won't disturb others. If they remain in the room, they can avoid talking too loudly.
- Students can ask their roommates not to make the room an entertainment center for groups of friends, especially not late at night. Bringing only a couple friends at a time into the room is probably acceptable. Asking permission, giving advance notice, or negotiating with roommates are the best ways to avoid problems.
It is also important for roommates to talk about quiet hours, study time, and sleeping habits. Roommate agreements can be used to make negotiations and set standards for the year. Here are some additional strategies students suggested for a healthy roommate relationship:
- Get to know your roommate by asking about likes and dislikes, discussing family and friends from home, talking about habits you see in one another, and making plans to do things together (without assuming that you need to do everything together!)
- Understand the difference between conflicts and problems. Conflicts generally are an incompatibility between two people related to specific topics, but they don't have to be a problem. Problems are disagreements that need to be resolved. Conflicts can lead to problems if left unresolved. Parents can assist by helping students assess whether a difference can be resolved through communication.
- Make a roommate contract
- Learn to communicate effectively:
- Talk to your roommate about issues that concern you.
- Do not let petty grievances accumulate.
- Be a good listener.
- Try to understand the other person's point of view.
- Be assertive; not aggressive.
- Think before you speak.
- Use "I" messages; say things like, "Here's what I see" and "Here's what I think" rather than "You do this" and "You treat me like that."
- Understand compromise. Instead of trying to ‘win' the argument, look for solutions that meet everybody's needs. There may be a new solution that satisfies both people. This is much more effective than one person getting what they want at another's expense.
- Seek mediation when problems come up. The community adviser, residence hall director, or other staff can be helpful.
In the college environment, it can take more time to find other quiet and introspective students than to meet outgoing students. Quiet students are not unfriendly, though, and they may turn out to be the best friends a student will find on campus. Students can look for people who:
- Avoid the party scene or, at a party, spend most of their time talking to just one or two others.
- Spend much of their time in the evening and on weekends studying or doing things alone or in small groups.
- Are quiet and try to blend in.
- Prefer to listen rather than speak out in groups.
- Seem to take their studies seriously.
Finally, students should push themselves to try new experiences without going too far out of their own comfort zone. An introverted student offers this advice:
"In my experience you cannot use shyness as an excuse or a crutch. If you are shy like I was, you just have to suck it up and practice being outgoing. It's generally pretty easy because everyone else wants to make friends too!"