Ask Andie: How can I communicate with my awkward roommate?

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Dear Andie,

Recently, I moved out of my old apartment complex into a newer, more affordable place. I really love the ward already, but I just have one big issue. I have a really tough time understanding and connecting with my new roommate. He’s a little socially awkward, despite being funny a good portion of the time. And when I say socially awkward, I mean several things, one of which is sarcasm. If I try to be sarcastic, he takes it seriously, which makes me feel bad because sarcasm is common vernacular for me. That’s just the tip of the sword. I have to clean up after him a lot. I’ve been living on my own for well over six years, so I don’t particularly enjoy picking up wet towels in the living room or cleaning up mountains of dishes. 

How would you recommend I connect with my roommate, whom I struggle to understand?

Sincerely,

Living in awkward

 

One unfortunate inevitability of life is you’ll sometimes be forced to interact with people you don’t get along with. I’m sure you’re familiar with this, and you’ve probably had co-workers or classmates who irritated you, but it is tough when you find yourself stuck living with someone you can’t relate to.

The first step to fixing your communication problem is learning how to be his friend. Find out what things are important to him. Maybe you have to step out of your comfort zone to make him feel comfortable. You guys might not have anything in common, but I’m sure you can find a way to respect his interests. Instead of comparing him to you and the way you live your life, make an effort to participate in the activities that he enjoys. It’s possible that he’s looking for a friend in you but has no idea how to relate to you either. Since you’re the one who wrote to me, I’m putting you in charge of extending a hand of friendship. Ask him about his major, his interests, his childhood. Something. Who knows, maybe you do have things in common!

Even if you are completely different people with absolutely nothing to talk about, a mutual civility and friendliness can make living under the same roof much easier. You should at least try to get to the point where you can have a conversation over dinner. Until you get to that point, try to avoid using sarcasm. Think about it: as strange as it is to you that he doesn’t understand what you’re saying, it’s just as strange to him you don’t say what you mean. Be respectful of his personality and his worldview. Just because it’s not the same as yours doesn’t mean that it’s weird or bad. Believe it or not, people are different, and we have to respect the needs of others. Try looking at things from his perspective. You should be able to get an idea of how he thinks by talking to him and asking for his opinions.

As for the cleanliness thing, don’t touch his things. The worst thing you can do is clean up after him, because he’ll never change his habits. The second worst thing you can do is confront him and act accusatory. Hopefully if you’re reaching out to him, he won’t be offended if you ask him politely to hang up his towel or clean up his dishes. The most important thing is to talk to him. Get to know him. Tell him how you feel about the cleanliness of the apartment. Be nice, be a friend, but be open with him. Talk to him straight, no sarcasm, no jokes. You can navigate this tricky relationship with your roommate. I have faith in you.

Readers, what do you think? How do you handle difficult roommates? What advice would you give? Comment below or email . As always, we welcome all thoughts and opinions.

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