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I live in a house shared with several other roommates. I find some go on witch hunts and ask loaded questions intended to get someone in trouble. For example, I've got:

  • "Did you use this pan last?", no, "I had a hard time cleaning it after the last person used it".
  • "Were you up last night?", yes woke up and got a glass of water, "I heard you banging around, you must have a sleep disorder".
  • "Who left the light on?", I don't know.
  • "Who left the window open? It's letting the hot air out!", "who forgot to lock the door?" etc.

This is stressing me out. How can I politely point this out and try to change the behavior? I thought of reminding them we are all adults and everyone makes a mistake from time to time.

It really is only two or three roommates who do this.

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Technically, you are under no obligation to answer anything that anyone asks you, but in reality, refusing to answer can be seen as rude. I taught my kids to "give before you take" meaning give some information before demanding some, and I find this "were you up last night?" kind of thing rude because you don't know why they're asking.

Practice saying

Why do you ask?

Whenever you are asked a question that seems strangely irrelevant.

If every time they suddenly come to you and ask you if you [used a pan, woke in the night or whatever] you don't answer but instead ask why they are asking, they may learn that they won't get answers to random snap questions without context.

On the other hand, "Who X?" is generally considered synonymous with "I am annoyed that somebody X. Who was that?" and I don't recommend you try to train them out of generic "who X" questions. Just getting them to stop the "did you X?" when you have no idea what the point is will be a big win.

  • 2
    Just want to point out that this can backfire : instead of making them realize these questions are a waste of time, they might take this as an invitation to vent and rant. – MlleMei Feb 26 at 11:46
  • Seems like they intend to do so anyway, but at least this way they didn't "extract a confession" from the OP before the rant started. – Kate Gregory Feb 26 at 12:33
  • @MlleMei is right, I tried and this is what happened – Trunnion Mar 4 at 12:14
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How can I politely point this out and try to change the behavior?

This is exactly why meetings exist and what they are about!

Instead of having to explain yourself (bad idea) or ask why he's asking (bad idea too, because it'll increase the level of stress and may lead to damaging the relationship), call for a meeting.

This way, you acknowledge that some things (that he doesn't like) happen but not necessarily because of you. And that you're willing to help solving the problem. Other roommates have to be involved too, of course. Like a team. But it's to point out big problems, not small (still annoying) things. For the latter, you may have to suck it up though, like adults do. Let's just find a way out together. Talking and explaining is the key.

This must not be a "trial" or even passive-aggressive (like notes), just a meeting where people congregate and share thoughts and/or problems. It can easily be done around a couple of pizza. (1)

This way, you're the good guy, willing to listen and take your share of the burden, but not before everyone is aware. Important: instead of problems, you provide people with a solution. And that's why the others have to be involved. Because you say that, most of the time, it's not your fault. The goal of the meeting is that every individual within the house knows about the chores, the duties and the rights, the respect, both individually and collectively.

During the meeting, listen to what is said. Carefully. Don't argue, even if some aren't aware or are lying. Keep track of what is said. And get there with many ideas and arguments ready. Never go unprepared. People may then realize that they made mistakes they weren't even aware of, you never know! And that nothing wasn't done "on purpose" to "let it just go and others will do". Still, they can be lazy, so the purpose of the meeting is to separate the good and the bad: let them know, let them weight, let them decide, let them (dis)agree.

In the past, I've already helped someone in this situation, and it was based upon my experience with teammates. They tried, and it worked like a charm. Where business meets family/friends. Different people, different relationships, same problems sometimes...


(1) read more about Jeff Bezos running a meeting.

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