Plagued by a roommate asking where you are? Researched solutions include:
- Share a few details politely—end the conversation.
- Learn the warning signs to avoid nosy roommates.
- Understand that your roommate is lonely—decide to be friends.
- Make a ‘what to do if’ table for roommates scared to be home alone.
If your roommate is always asking where you are, it can get pretty frustrating.
This constant “where are you, what time are you coming home, where are you going”, etc. might even activate some emotional triggers. (Think: when your parents asked you the same questions.)
How can you deal with this situation?
You have many options, depending on what you think is the cause.
1. Your roommate always asks where you are because they are trying to be a significant part of your life.
You, as an independent adult, see it as your roommate ‘keeping tabs’ on you.
They see it as being involved in your life in a close and caring way.
To your roommate, asking where you are or where you are going shows concern.
They want to make sure you are ok, that nothing bad has happened to you or that you are not planning on doing something dangerous.
Of course, you don’t see it like that. Hence, the issue.
Most likely, your outright refusal to answer could make things quite frosty between the both of you.
A more effective solution is to give accurate but limited information. In other words, be polite and sharing but low on details and private data.
For example: “I’m out running errands.” or “I’m finishing up at work.”
Remember that roommates don’t have to be best friends.
You and your roomie can have a positive, communicative relationship without sharing intimate details.
2. Your roommate wants to know where you are because they are nosy.
Let’s face it—some people like to poke their noses into other people’s business.
It’s more than natural curiosity. Their behavior is a pushy intrusion into your private life.
They don’t mean to get on your nerves. It’s just who they are, and the likelihood is that they are not going to change.
However, you don’t have to suffer because of your roommate’s nosy nature.
Have boundaries been crossed?
Here are some ways to avoid your roommates nosy questions.
1. Learn the signals that a nosy question is on its way.
When you see one coming, get busy with something. Perhaps check your text messages or walk away to tidy something.
You will be less accessible to your roommate’s nosy questions such as ‘Where are you going?’.
2. Be honest about your discomfort.
Politely tell your roommate that you prefer not to answer personal questions such as these.
III. Assess your ‘nosy level’.
What is it about this question or these questions in general which is making you uncomfortable?
Are these questions really invasions of your privacy?
Perhaps the question touches on a subject you are sensitive about.
Maybe it’s the amount of these questions that is driving you up a wall—like every time you turn around.
Taking a few moments to figure out what is triggering your discomfort will probably spark some ideas about solutions.
3. Asking where you are is just a way to make conversation.
Some people are socially challenged. They have few clues about how to start a conversation.
When your roommate asks, “Where are you?” they might really be asking, “What’s happening? How are you? What are you up to?”
Your roommate is trying to chat with you in a friendly way using a very poor conversation starter.
Do you WANT to chat with your roommate?
If you do, just answer something like ‘nowhere special’ and turn the conversation back to your roomie.
Ask him something such as, “What’s your day been like?” or “What’s new with you?”
Don’t want to have friendly conversations with your roommate?
White lie your way out of the conversation. Say something like, “Sorry, I’m really busy at the moment. I’ll try to catch you later.”
Answer in short answers. Give the least information possible, and then end with, “Gotta run. Bye.”
4. “Where are you?” questions are a sign of loneliness.
Take a moment to think about your roommate’s social life.
Are they close to members of their family and hang out with them on a regular basis? Do they have good friends to have fun with?
Perhaps they are lonely and want to know when they can look forward to seeing you.
Are you at a fun place like a pub or on your way to the movies? Your roommate would like to ask if they can join.
On your way home? Maybe you would like to join your roomie for dinner.
Many people become roommates in order to have a good friend. Your roommate might be one of those people.
Is having a friend relationship with your roommate something you want?
Make your mind up and act accordingly.
Keep in mind, though, that pushing your roommate away and keeping it distant may cause them to be hurt.
Hurt people are often in a bad mood, bringing the atmosphere of the home down.
If you are planning to disappoint them, do it as gently as possible, and make sure they understand that it is all on you, not them.
5. Your roommate doesn’t get how annoying their questions are.
Until we experience it ourselves, we often cannot understand how our behavior is affecting other people—especially when we are doing something irritating.
The psychological technique ‘mirroring’ can be very helpful in this situation.
Basically, mirroring is imitation. Just like a mirror reflects how you look and behave, your mirroring reflects how another person looks and behaves.
Usually, people use mirroring to connect with another person.
Mirroring builds connection because sameness encourages empathy. In other words, we tend to empathize with people who are like ourselves.
In this case, however, you can use mirroring to show your roommate how annoying they are being.
How to Negatively Mirror
Step 1: Pay attention to a particular question of yours that makes them upset.
Step 2: Practice saying this question with the same speed and volume as your roommate.
For example, if your roommate talks loudly and quickly, then you should also.
Step 3: Repeat this question as often as needed to make your roommate irritated.
Step 4: Now that your roommate is annoyed at you, find a comfortable time and explain to them what is going on.
Chances are that having experienced the feeling, your roommate will understand and stop asking you where you are.
6. Your roommate doesn’t want to be alone.
It is common to be nervous, even scared, about being ‘home alone’.
Some people are frightened all the time they are home alone.
For others, it is just the thought of going to sleep without anyone else at home…just in case.
So, your roommate asks where you are to try to get an idea of when you are returning home.
Suspect this is the reason? Ask your roommate directly, and support them when they admit their fears.
Then, work together to find a good solution.
Here are some suggestions —using them separately or combined is up to you.
Your roommate feels insecure and worries about someone breaking in.
- Fit the home with deadbolts on the doors and good quality locks on the windows.
- Install light timers to switch on and off lights. This makes it look like several people are at home—a situation burglars do not prefer.
- Make sure that valuables and expensive gadgets cannot be seen through the windows. An easy way to do this is to install blinds or curtains and lower/close them when your roommate is alone.
- Get an alarm system.
Your roommate has a significant health issue and is concerned about not being able to get help.
A medical alert system/panic button can call for help with just one press. Begin searching at this reliable site.
Strongly suggest to your roommate that they consult with their healthcare practitioner.
Treatments such as cognitive therapy, breathing techniques, and relaxation exercises can be very helpful in reducing fearful events and coping with the panic if an event happens.
Your roommate doesn’t know what they would do if something happens.
Create a two-column table. In the left-hand column of each line, write down all the possible emergencies which could logically happen. In the right-hand column of each line, write down the emergency plan.
|Burst pipe||Call John the plumber: 555-3927|
Your roommate feels they have no one to turn to in the event that….
Talk to your neighbors. Make a list of everyone who agrees to be on the ‘on call’ list.
Your roommate is just generally anxious and a ‘worrier’.
Research shows that anxious thinking is a cycle. Once we get into that cycle, it is very difficult to break.
The following tactics used by psychologists can help break the anxiety cycle, so share them with your roommate.
It’s kind of like the person for whom every chest pain is a heart attack.
I had a roommate like that once. It got so bad that he finally went to a cardiologist (heart specialist).
It turned out that his relationship with his father was causing him extreme anxiety.
Every time he felt he had to do something his father asked which he didn’t want to do, he got chest pains.
So, no heart attack. Just a need for more independence.
Being mindful and noticing the thought seems to help. No need to deal with it.
Just see that it is there, try to understand what triggered this thought, and then let it float away.
Tactic #2: Question the correctness of the thought.
Often, our minds go to the extreme. We say things like, “I can’t live without him/her.” or “I won’t be able to reach my goal.”
Really? Or are we just fearful of the future and finding it difficult at the moment?
Forcing your anxious thoughts to prove themselves is an effective way to reduce them to ideas that are more easily coped with.
Here’s an example you can show to your roommate.
Panicked you: “If something bad happens, I am going to be helpless.”
Self-talk you: “Let’s look at that for a moment. Have bad things happened to you in the past?
Panicked you: “Sure they have.”
Self-talk you: “And yet, you are still here. So, evidently, you coped effectively with whatever bad things happened.”
Panicked you: “That’s true, but next time, it could be something I can’t cope with.”
Self-talk you: “You are correct that that could happen, but it’s not just you. Everyone has things they can’t cope with which is why there are emergency numbers to call for help, fire extinguishers at home, neighbors who have agreed to support you…things like that which you have put in place.”
Panicked you: “Now that you mention it, I have a lot of people and things to rely on.”
Self-talk you: “Good work! I think we’re done here for now.”
Of course, if your roommate has panic issues they should go and seek help from a qualified medical professional.
Tactic #3: Exposure yourself to the worst.
Basically, fight fire with fire. A great example is snake desensitization.
People with ophidiophobia (a fear of snakes) go through a series of steps to help them be closer to snakes.
First, they might see a snake from a long distance away and learn to deal with it in a calm manner.
Then, each session, they would move closer and closer to a snake. Finally, they would be right next to a snake or even hold it.