Living with other people is a difficult endeavor with aspects of compromise and growth in order to be successful. Each person enters a living situation with a particular set of expectations, behaviors and values that can interact with others in many ways. The most common tips about living with roommates deal with communication, compromise and awareness. But what do these actually mean? Here are some specific tips that lay out what these words look like in action.

Set expectations

Before you live with someone, don’t assume that their expectations are the same as yours. It’s a good idea to talk through some basic rules, like specific chores that need to be done in an individual or communal way, what to do in emergency situations, expectations for guests, what food is shared or separate, etc.

Keep an open line of dialogue

A common destructive pattern in a living situation can be when someone is irritated about something but refuses to speak about it due to passive aggressiveness or fear. These are valid things to feel, but need to be overcome in order to resolve differences. There are many situations where someone is unaware that they’re inconveniencing you, and if you kindly communicate what your concerns are, chances are they will be more than happy to adjust.

Healthy communication comes from in-person dialogue, as texting and “note-leaving” can lead to confusion or omission of another person’s feelings or efforts. Also, never assume that because you talk about something once that it’s settled. People need reinforcement, not to mention that schedules and circumstances change with time.

Develop habits immediately

While communication is what causes about 90 percent of problems in living situations, the other 10 percent has to do with actually following through on what you and your roommates discuss. Building habits necessitates consistency, so it’s important to work on them right after you have your initial conversation.

For example, if you and your roommates make a chore chart, put it on your personal schedule. Get in the habit of sending texts before you have someone over or leave for a night. Refill the Brita with water every time you use it.

Don’t take it personally

Most of the time, when someone does something that bothers you, it’s not because they want to personally inconvenience you. Even if you have told them before about a specific thing, they may have not made the connection between the action and your feelings. This is why it is important to lay out not only what your expectations are, but why you have them. There may be disagreement on the “why,” and that’s where compromise comes in. You have to self-evaluate to see if your “why” is coming from an irrational place, or if there is any way you can make an exception.

Venting and intervention

If you are having consistent problems with a roommate, make sure to talk with a third party. This could be a close friend, a parent, a landlord or a student support assistant (SSA). Doing this ensures that you process your feelings before addressing the conflict. If you are uncomfortable addressing conflict on your own, other roommates or a Residential Life worker can support the conversation. Do not worry about how personal or complex an issue may be — SSAs are specifically trained to confidentially deal with any situation that may arise and are likely to know more resources and potential options than you do.

Focus on the best parts of people

Personality and emotional needs are usually not going to be discussed in an initial meeting unless you have very self-aware, communicative roommates — in which case, lucky you! These are things that you discover with time about a person, and though they can be off-putting, you may come to appreciate them more if you allow yourself to see them in a different light.

For instance, someone who is particularly “needy” can be difficult to live with in many ways. However, this person will likely be supportive and grounded in ways other people aren’t. As long as you communicate your priorities and boundaries with this person, they will likely come around to understanding and respecting your space better.

On the flip side, a roommate who tends to keep to themselves may not have been what you were looking for, but is preferable over many other difficult living situations. You have the freedom to find more meaningful relationships outside your living situation.

While a lot of tips on living with roommates can be vague, these are a few that address the roots of problems rather than their surface-level manifestations. Make sure to find other resources and seek out wisdom from people you trust. It is helpful to remember that these are experiences that improve healthy relationship skills and personal character development.