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How to cultivate good roommate relationships

College and university freshmen are often tempted to request roommate changes within weeks of unpacking. But a host of research suggests that bearing with small disagreements is likely to have a positive effect on students.

College and university freshmen are often tempted to request roommate changes within weeks of unpacking. But a host of research data suggests that staying the course — barring abusive situations — is likely to have a positive effect on students for years to come.


In a roommate setting, tension could actually produce better results for students. For instance, most studies show that racial differences among roommates lead to more conflict. However, an important Ohio State University and Virginia Commonwealth University study showed that mixed-race roommate situations resulted in better grades for African-Americans.


Moreover, a recent University of Michigan study found that most roommate situations get better, not worse, over a 10-week period. That same study presented evidence that a willingness to reveal weakness is a key factor in a good roommate relationship.


Admitting to fears and shortcomings can create a healthy bond, even between extremely different personalities.


“Human weakness, I think, is really one of the only reliable facts of the universe,” says John Mallinen, a counselor. “We are all dealing with a lot of fear. When we are able to share that with another person, it’s bound to create intimacy.”


And that can begin — at least in small doses — online, before you meet, says Natalie Caine, founder of Empty Nest Support Services, a Los Angeles-based consultant.


“Let each other know you are excited and nervous so it shows some vulnerability,” she explains. “Use humour, like saying you will bring ear plugs to share for snoring or late-night studies.”

 
 
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