Stories from My Past: Having the hard discussion with roommate

There is a saying that life keeps gives you opportunities to learn the lesson until you learn it. That is certainly been true in my life.

Like anyone, having a hard discussion is something that I want to avoid. Talking to someone about something that they could improve is rarely appreciated, and I’ve found that unsolicited advice is poorly received. So 99% I am quiet when I think I know something that might improve the quality of someones life. I have learned that people only change when they are ready, and when they want help they will ask for it. Until then its best to be quiet.

However when you live with a roommate, it is a special relationship. It’s not quite a friendship, although it can be and was in this case, and as you will soon see I had to speak up for everyone’s sake.

I had several roommates in college through the years, and one was low on social skills. I am not a social master myself, but I could see where his awkwardness was causing people to stay away from him. During the year at some point he said he wanted to be an Resident Assistant and was chosen to be one the next year. At that point I knew I had to speak up.

All year I had watched him awkwardly pushing himself onto people. Here is one example. A guy was fixing his bike in front of the dorm. My roommate offered to help and he said no he had it under control. Then he said he had some tools if he needed them. Again the kid said no. Then he said that he is free if it gets too complicated or something like that. The kid rolled his eyes at me signaling to me that once again my roommate was being too friendly.

When we got back to our room I spoke with him and asked if it would be ok to give him some feedback on how he relates to people. I have found that when you are going to give someone feedback asking them for permission lets them prepare for it. Anyway, I said as gently as I could that what he is doing is pushing people away and explained how in the recent experience that other kid felt pressure and that isn’t the way to make friends. He thought about it and thanked me, and his behavior changed after that point.

Did I do this for my benefit? Yes, partly because I didn’t like to see him and others suffer. Mostly however it was because he was an only child, and I have noticed that many only children don’t have good social skills. If you care about someone ask them if they want you to be honest, and then give them feedback as positively as possible. You will see the difference and they will appreciate your candor.