Rental Guide: When it comes to being a roommate, honesty trumps nicety

Nobody is inherently a good roommate.

Sure, there are naturally amiable and respectful people that you can live with, but the ability to coexist is an art that needs to be mastered. A person from the outset cannot know exactly how to please everyone they live with, unless of course they move out but continue to pay rent.

This process of becoming a good roommate requires trial-and-error. You have to test the reactions of the people you live with.

Early on I realized that my roommate did not appreciate when I ate his Korean leftovers — which, in hindsight, I totally understand. The next time around, I did not eat his leftovers, no matter how tempting it was.

The key to a good roommate relationship is open-mindedness and the ability to accept criticism. If you are able to choose your roommate, pick someone who can — when the time is right — be brutally honest. You’ll need that.

The best roommate will be the first one to tell you that your excessively long showers are running up the water bill. That same roommate will also calmly tell you that if you eat another one of his or her Pop-Tarts, they will have no qualms about stealing your mattress and putting it in the storage closet.

Reward that blunt roommate by extending the same courtesy.

Honesty is the better substitute to harboring animosity. Animosity tends to lead to passive aggressive behavior, and that type of behavior will cause either you or one of your roommates to start living full-time at a significant other’s apartment, with only occasional visits that tend to involve the slamming of doors.

To avoid such a scene, respecting common areas is a must, because the whole household is affected by dirty dishes and unkempt living areas. Moreover, respecting personal space and property is also key.

But that doesn’t mean that having roommates is all about conceding. If, for example, you enjoy walking around in your underwear — because you’re not in public and that’s just what you do — then that is totally fine. Your roommates should be open to your at-home wardrobe.

Also, if you like your coffee pot to be cleaned out after each individual use, just let your roommates know that’s something you want everyone to follow. No one should be upset if you let them know from the outset your personal preference.

But if you are under the assumption that they should have known — which is always going to be a bad assumption — then you are setting yourself up to get angry. And you will be mad. And you may even decide that their food is now yours.

The big thing to remember is that you should be a better roommate as time goes on, not a worse one. Be willing to adapt and understand that no one is going to be the perfect roommate — yourself included.