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How to diplomatically tell university friends we're not living with them again?
December 31, 2012 11:34 AM   Subscribe

How to diplomatically tell university friends we're not living with them again? Group of friends live together one year and then go on exchange years, and upon returning for final year don't want to live with a certain friend - whereas he thinks everything is fine and rosy and the old arrangement will be repeated.

The core of our circle of friends, including me, lived together in a 7-person house in our second year of university. Now we've all split up doing different things, mostly on academic years abroad, and next year we'll be back in our university city. It's now the time when people start talking about housing arrangements.

3 of them have invited me to live with them, as they want a small house of 4 at the most, and enjoyed living with me in second year. However, for many reasons, my 3 friends XYZ don't feel the same about another former housemate, W. Partially because of his long-term girlfriend V, who they find it hard to be around, whereas I don't. And when W lived with us, it was basically taken as given that V did too, even if she officially lived somewhere else (she's not a student, so isn't exempt from certain taxes, which is why she'd prefer not to live with us/her boyfriend - doing so would mean we lose the tax exemption we got from being a student-only house) - so XYZ don't want a repeat of that. The remaining two housemates from second year are a couple, and happily living together and plan to continue.

VW are unaware that XYZ have made plans to live with me, and they're taking it as assumed that a similar set up to last year will be in place. How do I tell them that we won't be living with them? should I be tactful but honest and say something like 'It's because we want a small house, and the 4 of us feel compatible on a day to day livability basis, and it has no bearing on our friendship etc' - the thing is XYZ don't feel particularly close to W, partially due to the reasons mentioned above, whereas I do, but my closest friend is X, and I'd rather not live with W than not live with X next year.

It might seem laughable that i'm even asking this, but I've always tried to be as diplomatic as possible when it comes to tensions between people - in our circle of friends I've been 'delegated' a couple of times to talk to a friend if something they did was bothering the rest of us. And in a way I'm the only one this bothers, because XYZ aren't close enough to VW to care about feigning naivete in deliberately excluding them from living plans. so I'm in a bit of a fix. I'm also slightly nervous about this as the very fact that XYZ don't want to live with W will be the first unambiguous sign to W of how distant they feel from him.

I hope i've made things as clear as I could here. Also, while we're on the subject, there is another friend who we started getting to know towards the end of second year, and we think that he seems great, but XYZ don't want to risk living with him, as they feel they don't know him well enough, and it sounds a bit like he *maybe* has mild anger issues. Our general crowd will be meeting up in a few days (sans VW), when this friend will undoubtedly bring up whether he can live with us - how do we let him off gently? Is it a good idea to send him a message beforehand?

Sorry if this all seems hopelessly neurotic. thanks for reading!
posted by lethologues to Human Relations (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I think your suggestion
'It's because we want a small house, and the 4 of us feel compatible on a day to day livability basis, and it has no bearing on our friendship etc'
is just fine. Sure, it might be a bit of an awkward conversation, but you will all get over it and it will be less awkward than living with someone you don't want to live with. Maybe your new friend can live with VW!
posted by exceptinsects at 11:37 AM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, send a note. It can't hurt and can only help because it's less a blindside.

"Dear W,

We've found a perfect house for us and we had to take it. I hope you can find a great situation for next year. I look forward to seeing you again. The first drink is on me!

Cheers,
lethologues"
posted by inturnaround at 11:45 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


You just say it. Don't belabor the point. Don't speak to other people's issues. I'd say, "Hey, friend, I don't know how to say this but XYZ picked out a small house and they want me to room with them and I said yes. I liked the big group house situation but it looks like it won't be possible. Let me know if you want help finding a place and let's go out for beers soon."
posted by amanda at 11:59 AM on December 31, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think saying that XYZ found a 4 person house and only had room for 1 more -- since he comes with a gf, it would have been too crowded -- would be fine. People generally understand, and he might be put off for a bit, but will get over it. Another way to phrase it is that since the 4 of you don't have live-in gf/bf, it made the most sense for the single people to live together, along with wanting a smaller place.
posted by DoubleLune at 12:07 PM on December 31, 2012 [13 favorites]


To W: Sorry, we saw a great place but it was only for four people.

To other chap: Oh, sorry but we already found a place. Do you know our friend W, he's looking for flat-mates.
posted by atrazine at 12:13 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


You're overthinking this. People your age group make random living arrangements all the time and nobody can hold you to assumptions based on 'established patterns'. For all you know VW may not even be coupled any more next year.........just do what you want and present as factual information, suggest drinks when you next see each other and be done.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:13 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think DoubleLune has it. The "new" friend thing is not even a thing, really, but I am guessing that you don't actually have the house yet, though? I imagine not having the actual house yet makes it feel a bit more awkward/tentative in case plans change, but I think the best thing to do is let everyone know ASAP that they need to make alternative arrangements.

This: I'm also slightly nervous about this as the very fact that XYZ don't want to live with W will be the first unambiguous sign to W of how distant they feel from him.

Not your problem. That's for XYZ and W to sort out. You may think you need to mediate this/be in the middle/play peacemaker because you get along with everyone, but you actually don't have to get involved in that at all. (I wouldn't.)
posted by sm1tten at 1:50 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


You've been delegated in the past cos the others are cowards and use your people skills.

Unfortunately this unwanted honour also comes with a side order of bitch. sorry but if you want to keep being the peacekeeper in your group you will also need to acquire the bad news skills that others can't be arsed to acquire.
posted by Wilder at 1:54 PM on December 31, 2012


"Oh, hey, VW. This year? XYZ found a house and invited me to live with them, but there's only room for the four of us. Good luck finding a place!"

And if this is how V and W learn that one can't just assume that one's living situation will take care of itself, well, that's a useful lesson to learn reasonably early in one's adult life.
It might seem laughable that i'm even asking this, but I've always tried to be as diplomatic as possible when it comes to tensions between people - in our circle of friends I've been 'delegated' a couple of times to talk to a friend if something they did was bothering the rest of us. And in a way I'm the only one this bothers, because XYZ aren't close enough to VW to care about feigning naivete in deliberately excluding them from living plans. so I'm in a bit of a fix. I'm also slightly nervous about this as the very fact that XYZ don't want to live with W will be the first unambiguous sign to W of how distant they feel from him.
I would highly encourage you to get yourself out of the middle of this kind of thing. Let your friends learn to manage their own relationships instead of expecting you to be the go-between. If XYZ don't want to be friends with VW, that's their business. And unless they're being unethical about it (spreading gossip about VW, for example, or trying to turn others against VW) or somehow kicking VW while VW are down, you don't need to make it your problem.

If VW have a problem with you remaining friends with XYZ even though XYZ and VW aren't friends, that's for VW to deal with. Life is not junior high; in adult life "if you're going to be friends with somebody I dislike you can't be friends with me!" is not generally a useful way to deal with things.

The idea that all of one's friends need to be friends with each other is social fallacy #4, and in the long run leads to drama and unhappiness.
posted by Lexica at 3:34 PM on December 31, 2012 [2 favorites]


Don't send a note. Please talk to them, and do it as soon as you can so they can look for a place.

I say this because when I was at college, I got a letter in the summer vacation in which my four roommates told me they didn't want to live with me next year. I was devastated, because I was in a sublet and these were supposedly my core friends. I didn't think I could go back and face them, never mind go through the rigmarole of finding a room.

(I found out later that one of my roomies didn't like me and had told the others that I'd been badmouthing their girlfriends and them behind their backs. The other three apologized later in the school year, but things were very weird for a long time. And I got a great house with three more peripheral friends who turned out to be much nicer.)
posted by vickyverky at 3:49 PM on December 31, 2012


Thanks all! sm1tten's got it, though I didn't make it clear - the new lettings are only announced in February, this is just a preamble to arranging accommodation so people know who they're with. and yeah, most people our age are fine with this kinda thing, but our crowd is kind of a lot more insular, and VW don't rly have any other good friends. It is true that they shouldn't just take their living arrangements & friendships for granted tho, and that's fair enough.

And just to make it clear, no-one's ever really asked me to step in as some sort of mediating influence - i've always just seen tensions bubbling up and thought it best to try and get some resolution in a group of friends who aren't that good at confrontation. nothin' manipulative going-on. Also, these aren't disparate friends I've been trying to push together - we literally met each other at the same time, and it's one of those things that couldn't help but grow as a group-dynamic.

Thanks for all yr help though everyone! I am overthinking this, and it's largely not my problem - being frank but tactful should be fine.
posted by lethologues at 5:17 PM on December 31, 2012


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