Living With Other People: A Survival Guide

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Most of us live with someone else — parents, roommates, girlfriends, boyfriends, spouse.

We may not always like it but we’re used to it. Maybe you plan on moving out on your own sometime in the future. Maybe you’re trying to find common ground. But in the end, you probably spend most of your time out of the house: at work, at school, with friends, at the gym.

Then suddenly, the pandemic locks the doors and you’re stuck inside 99% of the time.

And then the shitshow starts. No matter how well-balanced your co-living might usually be, at some point that balance breaks. And the more you’re stuck together, the faster that break happens. You argue more. You get annoyed more. You’re much more easily agitated.

In the past few months, I’ve gotten a lot of emails about dealing with this situation. It can suck. I’d know, as I’m in the same boat as all of you.

I came back to my country by the end of January, just before the coronavirus hit the Western world. Since I was traveling for a long time, the plan was to crash at my parents for a month or two, then find a new place. But when the pandemic started, we were all sort of “stuck” together.

No matter how stoic I aim to be, we would fight and argue more often. The “break” came faster than usual. Seeing how many others are in a similar situation, here are some tips for surviving daily gladiator matches and keeping your sanity:

  1. Accept the things you can’t control. Yes, the classic stoic principle. Well, it’s tried-and-tested truth for a reason. You can’t ever influence how others will feel, think, or behave. You can try to manipulate them but you’re most likely going to fail. (Plus, it’s not very nice.)
  2. Focus on controlling your own actions. I know, I know. It sucks when someone complains to your, criticizes you, or yells at you for no reason. It sucks even if it’s well-deserved. However, you simply can’t force people to NOT do these things. That choice is up to them. Freedom of choice and whatnot. What you can do is determine how you can respond. You can yell back, complain back, and criticize back. Or you can stay calm, say nothing, or don’t let it affect your mood. It’s not easy, but you have the power to do it.
  3. Do not give in to bullshit. Remember, it takes two people to fight and argue. You can’t choose whether someone starts some bullshit, but you can always choose not to engage. Listen to them, say “ok” and then walk away. Try to calmly explain your point of view. Ignore them if possible. Whatever you do, DO NOT mimic their behavior. Don’t become angry, agitated, or emotional. Channel your inner stoic.

Here’s an example of how to use this. Every morning, my father, my sister, and myself, all need to use the bathroom at the same time. Shitstorm ensues. “I was here first!” “But I need it more than you do!” “You always do this!”

Same old story. A lot of noise, no solution. Everybody is pissed and it ruins all of ours’ mornings.

But instead of engaging in constant arguments over a known problem, we decided to find a solution. It took us literally five minutes to explain what we need to do each morning and why. We then decided who will go first, who second, who third, based on a mutual agreement that makes sense for all of us.

Five minutes and the drama stopped. Literally.

Try to find common ground with your roommates. If you can’t, focus on preserving your mental peace and do not succumb to others’ bullshit. As the stoic Epictetus said: “Any person capable of angering you becomes your master. They can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by them.”

Build your own mental strength to be ready for whatever life throws at you.

If you haven’t already, check out the Mind of Steel Handbook. It’s the ultimate guide for building a strong mindset (rules, methods, examples).

Mind of Steel Handbook: The Essential Rules of Mental Strength

Stay strong,

Phil Janecic

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