There are different situations where I would like to ask a friend or a roommate to do something or to stop doing something.

For example, I have a roommate that sometimes doesn't wash his dishes and I don't like it. How can I politely ask him to wash the dishes without being preachy and without offending him?

Another issue I have with this is that anytime I ask him for something, I feel bad or even guilty, even though I assume what I am asking is pretty reasonable.

Is it normal to feel bad about asking other people for things or am I doing something wrong?

P.S. In case the cultural context is important: we live in the apartments in the United States, but originally we're from different countries, same age.

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    Welcome! We have no space limitations in questions so please, don't use short forms of words. We are here to answer specific questions about interpersonal interactions, as such, we need you to have a specific question about a specific interaction. We can not address in one go how to get a person both to do something and to not do something. We also need you to explain where in the world you are and generally explain your situation more. Thanks!
    – Catija
    Jul 31, 2017 at 15:47
  • You are able to edit your question whenever you like. Why would you not fix this question?
    – Catija
    Jul 31, 2017 at 16:41

3 Answers 3


Appeal to the personal and the collective self-interest, ie 'we will all benefit from this' and refer to 'we' rather than 'you' when suggesting changes in behaviour.

For example, "we will all benefit from cleaning up the kitchen when we have cooked food", or "I think we should clean up after ourselves when we have finished using the kitchen, because it keeps the kitchen clean for everyone to use, and we take responsibility for our own things."

Using the word 'you' can sound accusatory and somewhat aggressive. Using the collective 'we' is much more positive and suggests a collective effort towards the common good of all housemates.

Appealing to the self-interest of the housemate in question shows that by collectively changing everyone's behaviour, including them but not exclusively them, everyone will benefit, and the suggestion will be seen as a positive suggestion, and not as a confrontation or accusatory comment.

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    Being a more chaotic person myself I've often been in the position of the roommate being asked something like that and at least for me the "we will all benefit from cleaning up the kitchen when we have cooked food" sounds WAY worse than just "hey can you clean up the kitchen after cooking next time?". Because it means not only does my roommate not respect me enough to be direct, he's also clearly acting morally superior and trying to lecture me. All those things like 'we will all benefit' or 'because it keeps the kitchen clean...' sound like he thinks I'm a complete moron and don't know that.
    – Mark
    Aug 1, 2017 at 10:42
  • @Mark "...and don't know that." If you know something is right and insist on not doing it, then yes it is kind of moronic in your own words. Nov 7, 2017 at 16:10

This is just a part of living with other people... Having roommates is usually fun like that.

Being direct and consistent is usually a good way to go.

Please don't forget the dishes you left in the sink.

This isn't being unfair or unreasonable, but many roommates I've had over the years saw it that way. They were accustomed to living with mothers who would clean up after them. Sometimes you have to be clear that that's no longer the case.

The same goes for making reasonable requests of a roommate. If your roommate hasn't been out of mom's house long they may not be entirely aware that toilet paper can be purchased at the store, asking them to pitch in is completely reasonable.

More or less it's a matter of establishing what you're expecting from your roommates. Asking for basic consideration isn't rude. No reason to feel uncomfortable about it.

Having a house meeting and just generally discussing how you and your roommate want to address the cleaning, shopping, and bills is a good way to start. Some of my roommates were the type to do dishes immediately after their meal, while others preferred to wait till the end of the day, be prepared to be a little flexible when coming to agreements about these things.


The television show the Big Bang Theory makes light of Sheldon's obsessive adherence to a farcical roommate agreement. How ever such an agreement can help avoid this type of disagreement, or any misunderstandings about expectations.

The television show has one that is practically all inclusive of any potential (and some unrealistic) situations. That is the part that is overboard and farcical, but the concept is clear and helpful. Expectations of cleanliness and housekeeping duties enumerated and spelled out can help avoid fighting about things like this later. Or at least provide a ground work to have a constructive conversation when one of you fails to live up to the duties you agreed to.

When creating the agreement you should do so together. A quick search of the internet provides several basic agreements that you can work off of to help start it off. One of them may even serve your purposes with little adjustment. And then if something comes up that needs to be addessed in the agreement that is not, you can work with your roommate to craft an amendment to the agreement.

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