Question: My freshman year in college has been miserable so far all because of my passive-aggressive roommate. He never tells me anything to my face if he's upset and will instead show his frustration by slamming the door, turning on the light while I'm sleeping, talking on the phone loud, or just giving me the cold shoulder. Recently, he's been resorting to post-it notes around our room telling me what I'm doing wrong. I'm going crazy! I don't want to have to move out, but I'm at my wits end and it's only the first semester. HELP!!! (Cambridge, MA)
Social Shrink: Yikes. Your roommate definitely has some issues, number one being that he must be afraid of confrontation. Instead of telling you to your face what he's upset about, he's channeling it in unproductive ways that will only make the situation worse. You need to understand that everyone is different when it comes to conflict, and if he legitimately is upset about something but isn't able to tell you upfront, it may be necessary for you to step up and be the person to bring it up. It may be the initial thought of bringing anything up that makes your roommate avoid it and find other ways to show he's annoyed. It's obviously not very effective and definitely immature, but you got to be the bigger person.
Offer to have dinner at the dining hall one night with just your roommate and casually bring up the fact that you notice when he does little things like slam the door or turn the light on when you're sleeping. Ask him if he realizes he's doing it and if he's mad at you for something you've done. By opening the forum and giving him the opportunity to bring any issues up in the open, you are forcing him to stop being passive-aggressive and communicate what is bothering him. You may need to push him gently to just say what's bothering him (he obviously has some communication issues), but you'll be helping him in the long run. Let him know that he should feel comfortable letting you know how he feels and that you will do your best to not upset him. Living with roommates is all about compromise and communication and doing this early on will prevent any tension from escalating. It will also beat you having to sleep with one eye open!