To people being excited and hugging.

87% of first-year college students have at least 1 roommate — but your roommate is just one of the many people you'll interact with if you live in a dorm.

Living with others in a dorm can be challenging. We all have traits, habits, experiences, and backgrounds that make us unique. Learning ways to show respect to our dormmates can lead to lasting relationships and a positive living experience.

1. Respect Cultural Differences

A sign with a picture of the world in the center with the words Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Dorms are melting pots of individuals who differ in many ways. Race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, language, gender, sexual orientation, and ability are just a few.

Being aware and developing respect for others’ cultural differences is crucial for better understanding and making stronger connections to those around you.

Here are some ways you can respect cultural differences:

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  • Learn more about your roommate’s culture by reading books, attending cultural celebrations, and letting them share information with you! This will help clear up any misconceptions about the differences between you.

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  • Avoid assumptions. Don’t assume you know personal details based on what you see. The old saying applies here: “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” If you’re curious about something, ask! Your roommate will most likely appreciate the effort and would love to educate you about their background.

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  • Don’t judge! Just because someone’s lifestyle or beliefs are different than yours, it doesn’t make them wrong! Accept differences with an open mind.

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  • Be mindful of language barriers. Ensure understanding by repeating the main points back to the speaker to avoid miscommunication. You can also use translation tools and common phrases to communicate.

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When you learn from and interact with people of different backgrounds, you increase your understanding and will begin to respect them as individuals.

2. Handle Disagreements Respectfully

Disagreements are bound to happen! Learning how to express your feelings and thoughts respectfully will help improve the relationship between you and your dormmate.

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  • Talk to your dormmate and have a deep conversation. ✅

  • Use "I' statements when discussing the issue (i.e. "I need a quieter environment when I'm studying." vs. "You play your music too loudly!")

  • Stay calm during the conversation. If you get frustrated, take a break and come back when you're feeling more relaxed.

  • Have an in-person conversation. ✅

  • Work together to come up with a compromise. ✅

  • Seek help from your resident advisor or other supervisor if you're unable to resolve the conflict.


  • Ignore the situation. This will create additional tension and possibly lead to academic issues.

  • Yell and use disrespectful language. This will escalate the situation. ❌

  • Try to settle disagreements via text or email. A lot of information can be misunderstood this way.

  • Complain about your dormmate to others. This will make matters worse. ❌

  • Confront your dormmate in front of others. A private conversation is a better choice. ❌

Marge Simpson is complaining to Homer saying

How do you respond?

You're frustrated with your dormmate because they're leaving dirty dishes in the sink, which is attracting bugs. What do you do?


Leave a note on the kitchen counter asking your dormmate to clean up after themselves.


Find a time you can both talk peacefully and say, "I get frustrated when there are dirty dishes in the sink because it attracts bugs. Let's agree to both wash and put our dishes away asap."


Call a mutual friend and talk about your dormmate behind their back.


Wash your dormmate's dishes to avoid confronting them because you don't want to create conflict.


Which answer is the best choice for this situation?

3. Respect Interpersonal Relationships

Your relationship with your dormmate is one of the most important interpersonal relationships you will develop while at college. Practicing the following suggestions will create a respectful living environment.

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Respect your dormmates' boundaries by being mindful of their personal space and belongings. Don't intrude on their space without permission.

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Is your dormmate an early riser? A night owl? Consider the noise level in the dorm during your dormmates quiet/study hours. Showing respect in this way will be appreciated.

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Be a good listener and communicate positively and clearly with your dormmate. This will help prevent any future issues.

What Would You Do?

The Peanuts crew gathering around a Christmas tree

Your dormmate places Christmas decorations around the common areas of the dorm. You don't celebrate Christmas. What do you do?


Talk with your dormmate about your cultural background and ask for mutual respect when decorating common areas.


Just deal with it since it's probably just for a few weeks.


Remove the decorations yourself without informing your dormmate.


Talk with your dormmate to discuss various holidays and other cultural celebrations you both share and agree to rotate decorations throughout the year to celebrate each other's backgrounds.


Which answers are the best choices for this situation? Select all that apply:

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