Anna Homa (Reggie Beehner)

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How do you deal with sticky roommate situations when your roommate doesn’t react well to criticism?It can be hard to live with overly sensitive roommates. It can begin to feel like the carpet is actually made of eggshells and you must tread very lightly for fear of causing your roommate to become tear stained and covered in snot.

Sensitive people can have a tendency to get very defensive when faced with criticism and may even accuse you of picking on them. But that may be because they already know about the issue you are trying to discuss and may be embarrassed about it. It can be hard for people to talk about something embarrassing, especially if they don’t know you very well, like with dorm living.

But what do you mean by sticky situation? That is kind of vague and could be just about anything. Has your roommate forgotten the basic principles and the importance of hygiene and now the room is perfumed with Eau de Gym Locker? Or have you, or someone close to you, slept with the roommate’s boy/girlfriend?

And how badly does this roommate react to criticism? Is it a dramatic production every time you ask your roommate to pick up his/her dirty underwear?

Or it could just be you being overdramatic about your roommate’s reactions.

Because I don’t really know the situation, it is kind of hard for me to give tailored advice to you. But I can give you some general tips on how to talk to the overly sensitive.

n Set up a time to meet in person with no distractions and have a written explanation of how you feel and why. Meeting in person gives you a chance to answer questions your roommate might have and having it written down denies the roommate a chance to twist your words around, which will sometimes happen.

n Ask the person to repeat back what you said. That way if he or she heard something different than you intended, you can clarify it before moving on.

n Talk about the future. Avoid talking about the past; it can’t be changed. Instead focus comments on an observable behavior that can be improved.

n Sometimes things are better in small doses. Give your comments a few at a time in a couple of sit-down sessions. Your sensitive roommate can have more time to concentrate on what you said.

n Don’t forget the positives. Don’t let it all be negative; make sure you emphasize some of your roommates positives. People can handle negative things if they have other positive things to think about as well.

n Let people cry if they need to. Sometimes people just cry; it’s an emotion that can be hard to control. If your roommate breaks down, let him or her take a little break to calm down, but then get back to the session. It will help him or her realize that criticism can be a good thing, even if it is difficult to listen to.

Good luck.

E-mail questions to Anna
at anna_homa1@eku.edu