How to Control Your Shared Dorm Room

Going away to college can be stressful with tough classes, overwhelming workloads, and maintaining friendships. On top of all this is living with other students in a shared dorm room. Personalities can conflict and arguments can ensue. Taking control of your dorm room is a great way to keep the peace and be a respected leader of the pack.


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    Have a big personality with lots of opinions from the start. On move in day, be outgoing and friendly. This puts you in a power position over the shy or quiet roommates who will be less likely to challenge your decisions in the future. Take notice of another outgoing roommate right away. This roommate will become your closest ally if you are smart enough to team up rather than make an opponent.
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    Make significant contributions to the dorm with furniture, appliances, decorations, and supplies. This gives you dominion over the majority of items in the room. Be as polite and inviting as possible and make all the other roommates feel comfortable using everything you brought (no one likes a cruel dictator). Basically, you want your roommates to think you are very caring and generous but in the back of their mind they are still well aware of who contributed what to the dorm. This little thought in the back of the roommates' minds should almost never be spoken out loud but is a silent building block to the control system you are creating.
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    An extremely important part of control is the organization of the dorm's supplies and items. Make sure you know exactly where everything is (because you put it there). If you have personally organized the items and know their locations, your roommate will always have to ask you where something is or if we have anymore of something. This, again, is a method of control because even though your roommates are simply asking where something is, the act of asking serves two purposes. First, it clues you in to what the other roommates are doing and second, it gives you control over the item because it is as if the roommates are asking your permission to use the item.
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    Make sure to always maintain a high standard for the cleanliness of the dorm. Never leave a mess of your own and call others out for messes they leave behind. Basically, you should subtly police your roommates. When doing this, make general statements to the group of roommates asking who left all the dishes in the sink yesterday? This approach makes all the roommates who are not the culprit feel a sense of pride that it isn't their fault and will likely join in the finger pointing when the culprit owns up to their mess.
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    Another tactic of control is to make plans. The plan maker of the group will always have the most power. Not many people want all the hassle of communicating with others and figuring out what the plan is. Step up and do it. This way everyone looks to you for weekend activities, lunch dates, and other planned events.
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    Pay it forward. Always be there for your roommates when they need support. College is an emotional time and sometimes people need help or advice in dealing with the pressures. By being there for your roommates and helping whenever possible, it puts them in debt to you. People remember when someone picks them up and supports them. Building strong bonds with your roommates makes everything easier in the long run. When you establish that you are someone that can be relied on for emotional support, people tend to open up and tell personal, intimate things about themselves. Keeping these things secret and not betraying their trust is crucial. Simply having your roommates know that you hold some of their secrets is enough to solidify loyalty and control.
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    Demonstrate your power. If, and when, someone challenges you on a dorm issue, be prepared to show strength. Treat the issue like a court case. Clearly state your opinion and thoughts. Support your argument with facts. If necessary, use a witness (aka another roommate who clearly sees your point of view or would benefit from you winning). The position of power you already sit in gives you a huge advantage. For weeks or months now you have been the roommate who kept the dorm clean, organized everything, planned social events, and owns most of the items the other roommates use every day. Attempt to not cause too much trouble and make the opposing roommate see things your way. Logically reason with him or her to make them see your way makes the most sense while citing your evidence.
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    Following these steps over time will result in an overall positive environment for all your roommates to coexist while securing you a position of power.


  • Following these control tactics should only be done if you have the energy and drive to do so. There is a lot of work and planning that comes with having control in a group of people.

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Categories: Managing Conflict and Difficult Interactions