Here’s How To Talk To Your Roommate About Noise Without Escalating Things In Your Home
Nothing ruins my beauty sleep more than the sound of a booming bass on the other side of my bedroom wall. We've all been there before: Your roommate's blasting her "pump-up" playlist at a crisp 11 p.m. on a Tuesday night, so she can get in the zone to finish that work project she keeps procrastinating. But does she really need to listen to her music that loudly, to the point where your bed is literally shaking? Figuring out how to talk to your roommate about noise can be really difficult, especially when your living space is a glorified shoebox with paper-thin walls, and practically every sound you make is 10 times louder than you think it is. It's a touchy subject, for sure, but that doesn't mean it's impossible to talk about.
If you're thinking about bringing up boundaries about noise with your roommate, it's probably because they recently did (or have been consistently doing) something super loud at what you thought was an inappropriate time. Maybe they used their heavy-duty, ear-splitting blender at 6 a.m. on a Saturday before hitting the gym, or they had that one friend over again whose laugh could probably be heard from outer space. Whatever happened, the point is, you feel like a line has been crossed, and you want to bring up the issue to them.
Your frustration is 100 percent justified — but if you really want to solve the issue in a healthy way and steer clear of drama in your living space, try to follow these seven pieces of advice when you sit down with your roommate.
1. Try To Talk About It Before You Move In
In an ideal world, you and your roomie will hash out most, if not all, of the boundaries that need to be established in the apartment before signing that fateful lease agreement, or at least before move-in day. Of course, that's not always possible, so it's not the end of the world if you and your roommate don't get to have a preemptive conversation about how loud either of you can be when having a ~special guest~ stay over.
The real take-home message here, according to psychotherapist LeslieBeth Wish, MSS, Ed.C, author of Smart Relationships and founder of Love Victory, is to bring these types of things up as soon as you possibly can — ideally before one of you gets mad at the other for being too loud late at night.
"Always discuss as much as possible in advance so you can avoid the issue [in the first place]," Wish says in an interview with Elite Daily.
One way to approach that conversation, she suggests, is to ask one another what your "must-have" qualities are in an ideal roommate. Do you want to live with someone who's relatively quiet all the time? Is one of you a party animal looking for a ride-or-die who will galavant around the city with them all night long? Do you have a consistent meditation practice, and only ask for 30 minutes per day of absolute-quiet time? You don't have to ask these questions while you're going over the lease together, but as Wish explains, it's better to bring up these hypothetical scenarios and open questions before any incidents actually happen, so you know the best way to handle any conflict right from the start.
2. Make A Game Out Of The Conversation So Things Aren't Tense
Living with someone in your first post-grad apartment is a blast. That feeling of truly being on your own, and being proud of yourself for being a real, functioning adult, is one that honestly sticks with you long after you first schlep all of your boxes through the front door.
But being an adult means acting like an adult, too — even in situations where you'd just rather, you know, not. That means having a budget, that means feeding yourself regularly, and yes, that means talking to your roommate when they constantly keep you up all night because they "need" to fall asleep to a very loud playlist of songs by The Weeknd.
It may sound like one of the most awkward conversations you could have with another human being, but Wish has a suggestion to take the tension out of the equation, and make the exchange, dare I say, kind of fun.
"One way to come to agreement as to time is to make a game of it," she tells Elite Daily. "Write down each p.m. number on the hour and half hour on separate pieces of paper. Take turns looking at one number and saying whether you think that is a good [cutoff] time [for noise in the apartment]."
This is a great solution for two reasons: First of all, it's a way less buttoned-up way of talking about something serious. Secondly, when you think about it, it's really hard to come up with an exact cutoff time for making loud noise in a shared living space, because the reality is, that time will probably be different every single day, given you and your roommate's schedules. By randomly picking out times in the evening, as Wish recommends, you and your roommate can have a really casual conversation about the fact that, yeah, 7 p.m. is a laughably early cutoff for a Friday night, but yes, 11 p.m. is probably a good time to tone it down on a Thursday evening.
"As you go through the turns," Wish says, "you will eventually find common ground."
3. Don't Wait Too Long To Speak Up
Being an adult really is a double-edged sword. You get the perks of eating waffles for dinner if you feel like it, but you also get the responsibility of confronting conflict head-on, no matter what the context is, especially if the issue is happening in your own living space.
If your roommate robs you of your sleep one night with loud music, loud visitors, or even a headache-inducing combination of the two, Wish says it's crucial that you don't wait to bring up the fact that this bothered you.
"Don't wait too long to speak up," she tells Elite Daily. "Waiting raises your anger level because your sense of control over the situation goes down."
The last thing you want is for you or your roommate to overreact and blow up at each other in response to something small, like one of you accidentally dropping a stack of books at midnight. Again, you don't need to hash out every possible, hypothetical, noise-related scenario before they even happen, but it's definitely important, Wish says, to express your feelings about an incident as soon as possible after it happens.
4. Bring Up The Issue At A Neutral Time
Though you shouldn't wait too long to address these issues with your roommate, according to Doctor Wyatt Fisher, a licensed psychologist and marriage counselor in Boulder, Colorado, you also shouldn't bring the issue up at the exact moment when your roommate is being too loud. I know, this whole handling-things-like-an-adult thing is really confusing sometimes.
Think about it this way: Are you really going to be in your clearest, most rational state of mind when you're running on two hours of sleep for the second night in a row, thanks to your roommate's back-to-back ragers in the living room? Probably not.
It probably seems like conflicting advice — don't wait too long, but don't speak up immediately — but that's kind of what being an adult is all about: recognizing that the world isn't black and white, and therefore, most solutions aren't so cut-and-dry, either. No matter which way you slice it, life is about finding balance, and this situation is no different.
Take your time to cool off from those initial feelings of anger, but as soon as you feel like yourself again, make a plan to talk to them about what's going on, "during a neutral time when the roommate isn't being too loud," says Dr. Fisher.
5. Be Flexible & Open To Compromise
The entire topic of making noise in the apartment is going to be, by definition, based on compromise. After all, unless you and your roommate work in the exact same office, in the same exact positions, your schedules are going to be different, and therefore, you'll both have different boundaries that are important to you when it comes to noise levels.
As Doctor Gary Brown, a relationship expert in Los Angeles, points out, "it's not that it can't work if you [and your roommate] are on different schedules." Say you're a nurse working night shifts, and your roomie works earlier in the day, getting home around noon or so. You're probably looking for some peace and quiet around that time of the day, and you have every right to bring this up to your roomie.
"Your roommate needs to understand this, and you both need to agree on how you want to deal with this," Dr. Brown tells me.
It'll take some problem-solving, and definitely a bit of give-and-take between the two of you, but it's not impossible to compromise on these things. Take the example of the roommate who has a habit of using a really loud blender before sunrise on the weekends. In that scenario, Wish suggests having the roomie compromise by making their smoothie mixture at a reasonable time the day or evening before that early workout.
No matter what it is you and your roommate need to come to an agreement on, "never apologize for wanting reasonable peace and quiet," says Dr. Brown.
6. Always Come From A Positive Perspective
The blame game is easy to play, but it almost never ends well. It's way too easy to sit there and point fingers at your roommate for being way too loud every time their GF stays over for the night, and your roomie will just as quickly redirect the blame to you, for having a "grandma's bedtime" that's impossible to abide by.
The best way to handle talking about this type of conflict, Wish says, is to always approach the conversation in a positive way. You may not think the way you talk to your roommate about doing something wrong matters very much — I mean, no one likes to get called out like that — but using the right words really can make a huge difference in the way your feelings are received by the other person.
"Always take the positive version in your talks," Wish tells Elite Daily. "You might say: 'Oh, I know it can slip our minds about how to be respectful. Is there any way we can help each other remember what to do or not do? Maybe a checklist on the fridge?'"
The goal, she says, is to work as team to reach a shared solution. TBH, this is really what a roommate relationship is all about: compromising and working as a team to make your living space as comfortable as it can possibly be for both of you.