Roommates, Student Life

The Passive Aggressive Note: What Does it ACTUALLY Mean?

Have you ever had a roommate that would leave you notes when you left dirty dishes in the sink, forgot to clean up your things off the kitchen table, or you had your friend over until 5 am?  Have you ever been that roommate?  If you’ve ever been in that situation (no matter what role you played), in most cases, in never ends well.  This is because there is a lot more behind that note than you may initially think.

Passive aggressive notes could mean one of two things:

The person doesn’t feel like they can talk to you.  Maybe you give that aura of “Don’t mess with me,” or maybe they’ve just never experienced a problem with a roommate before and they don’t know what to do.  The person could also just be afraid of confrontation, and this is their alternative to actually confronting you about the problem.

You aren’t around for them to yell at, so they leave you a note instead.  If someone is extremely frustrated, and you aren’t around, they may take out their frustration in note form.  It’s not the best option, but it certainly happens.

Sometimes it’s easy to see which option it is, especially when you know the person well, but then sometimes it isn’t.  You need to think about what motivations they might have for writing a note like that and what might have you done to make them do that.  You should go speak with your roommate about the note, because you don’t want to let things like this make the relationship worse.  I say worse, because, let’s face it:  your relationship is already not on the best of terms if you’re writing passive aggressive notes to one another.

Here are some tips for talking with your roommate about their passive aggressive notes:

Think about what you’re going to say before you talk to them.  Like we said in our previous posts about roommate relationships and conflict, it’s best to go into a situation prepared.  You want to plan out what you want to say and how you will say it.

Avoid escalating the situation.  You never want to avoid talking things out with your roommate, but you certainly want to avoid escalating the situation.  Avoid directly placing the blame on them, and use “I” statements instead of “you” statements.  This means that instead of saying “I hate it when you leave nasty notes like that for me,” you say, “It bothers me to read notes instead of actually talking with you.”

Act calmly and rationally.   Perhaps the worst thing you can do is to lash out and make accusations or make unrelated arguments about other things the person has done to frustrate you.  Remember:  You need to act instead of react.  This means that you should act on the situation, i.e. talk with your roommate about your relationship, why they are leaving you notes, and what you can do to fix it.  You don’t want to react to their note, meaning that you don’t want to go with your automatic and “gut” reaction to how that note made you feel.  While both you and your roommates feelings are important and should be acknowledged, you don’t want to take out those feelings on your roommate.

Perhaps the overall moral of the story is to be considerate and to have open communication between you and your roommate.  It will be significantly more successful, and significantly more valuable, for you to talk with them instead of resorting to notes, because your reaction (or their reaction if you’re the offender) says it all.  Don’t write passive aggressive notes to your roommates.

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Housing Advice, Roommates, Student Life

How to Deal with Roommate Issues

Let’s be honest here:  You and your roommate(s) are never going to see eye to eye on everything.  Whether it is about doing dishes, who’s buying the paper towels, or whether they can have friends over at 12 am on a Tuesday night, things are going to come up that you just won’t agree on.  However, you certainly don’t want to end up in a bickering match or giving each other the silent treatment for the rest of the year.  This is why you need to be prepared before it comes time for you to have a talk.  In an article we read at MSN.com, they gave some tips on how to talk with your roommate when problems arise:

  • Avoid passive aggression.  The sticky note you leave your roommate detailing their wrong doings never goes over well (beware not get yourself on this site!).
  • Emphasize the positive.  Before you talk with your roommate, be sure to make a list of their positive qualities.   This will help to remind you what you like about them, and it will help keep you positive when you talk with them.
  • Consider how you could be contributing to the situation.  Usually issues in a relationship are never black and white.  Maybe your roommate never does the dishes because you never do.  You will want to consider how you could make changes too.
  • Be prepared.  NEVER GO INTO A SITUATION LIKE THIS UNPREPARED.  I repeat:  NEVER GO INTO A SITUATION LIKE THIS UNPREPARED.  This is perhaps the most important item on this list.  If you go into a situation like this with your roommate and you have not thought about what you are going to say beforehand, a myriad of (not-so-good) things can happen.  However, what will most likely happen is one of two things:  1) you won’t actually say what you meant to say, or 2) you won’t say it right and it will cause more friction between you and your roommate.  Be prepared!  Think about what you want to say and how you want to approach the situation.  You’ll also want to consider their possible reactions and how you will approach their responses.  You may even want to write down some notes and practice what you’ll say beforehand.  You don’t have to be afraid to talk with your roommate; you just have to be prepared.
  • Pick a comfortable location and time to talk.  You want to pick a time and place where both you and your roommate will be relaxed.  You may even want to set up a time with your roommate to talk with them.  This will help to prevent any outside influences (work, school, etc.) from affecting the outcome of your talk.
  • Be tactful, even-tempered, and clear.  Be clear about what you want to change, and make sure there are no “grey” areas.  You want to keep a cool head and be strategic about how you say what you need to say.  At least then one of you will be levelheaded.
  • Use “I” statements versus “you” statements.  Be sure to avoid focusing the discussion on what your roommate is doing wrong.  Instead focus on how the situation and their behavior makes you feel.  This way you’ll prevent them from shutting out what you are saying.
  • Don’t wait too long to talk to them.  Talk to them within a reasonable amount of time.  If your roommate had a party while you were away, you don’t want to wait 3 months after the fact.  Talk to them within a couple days of when you return.  This way it will be fresh in both of your minds, and it will prevent any future incidents.
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