In a flash, we are more than halfway into the semester. For those of us living on campus, it’s been that amount of time too – just about long enough to really ease into a comfortable rhythm of communal living… Or so it seems. Living with peers in a shared space is not always that simple. Without proper communication and the building of a shared understanding, communal living could produce great amounts of stress, and relationships could turn sour. Have you reflected on your living experience recently, and is there more you can do to improve it?
In this article, we’re going to help you reflect, by using a fun analogy of Formula One (F1) racing to help you create a positive communal living experience for you and your neighbours!
Singapore’s F1 race circuit (Source: Robb Report)
The F1 race weekend in Singapore took place recently, and we are sure that many of you are still reeling from the excitement of that large-scale event. However, beneath the surface of flashy drivers and high-speed racing, there actually lie many key communicative processes and stakeholders to ensure that the race goes smoothly for each driver. In consideration of this, using F1 racing as an analogy for communal living may not seem so far-fetched. While the stakes are ostensibly higher in an F1 race, one’s communal living experience also crucially affects one’s overall campus life, and even one’s mental health. Hence, learning from the complex processes that underpin F1 racing could be very valuable. Ready for some survival tips?
3… 2… 1… Go!
Knowing yourself well gears you up for success – in an F1 race and going into communal living
Before each race, the drivers (and their race team) each have their own methods of preparing themselves, both mentally and physically.
Daniel Ricciardo listening to music pre-race (Source: F1)
Similarly, before entering any group discussion or event with your other peers in the hostel, undergo light introspection, and take stock of your own expectations and feelings. Ask yourself questions such as, ‘What kind of relationships do I want to form with my hostel mates/neighbours?’, ‘How do I picture communal living to be like and how should I communicate that?’, and ‘Do I have certain living preferences or habits that I hope to maintain?’
Having a clear understanding of your own headspace and expectations going into communal living would ease the process of communicating with your peers, and building a common understanding within the group.
Effective communication wins races, and makes for a pleasant living experience
Imagine yourself sitting at the wheel of an F1 car now. For an F1 driver, completing a race successfully would be virtually impossible without sustained and effective communication with their race managers and engineers. This applies to your shared living experience in the hostel as well.
The main communication process begins when you (or your peers) initiate conversations within the group, and properly engage with everyone’s opinions. These conversations could be casual and unstructured – after all, you would hope to form friendly and warm relationships with each other. However, the establishment of certain ground-rules could be helpful, especially for those living in the shared apartments (such as in Residential Colleges and UTown Residence). If the idea of having rules sound overly-serious, the group could also opt to discuss each other’s living preferences and habits, and reach some form of mutual understanding.
Here, we note how radio communications during the race is usually a two-way process – when the race strategist informs the driver of information (e.g. the race situation, a new plan), the driver needs to listen and respond, either through acknowledgement, or voicing out his own concerns in return. Similarly, it is crucial that one spends as much time listening to one’s peers as voicing out one’s opinions during important conversations regarding shared living.
Furthermore, there are different stakeholders involved in various communication processes. In F1, there could be dozens of people talking on the radio at any given time – different aspects of the race need to be discussed and agreed upon. In order to avoid chaos and confusion, these conversations are grouped effectively, to take place in their given time and channel. Learning from that, one can also learn to organise the different types of conversations that take place. For instance, a one-to-one conversation might be more applicable when trying to agree on noise-levels with one’s neighbour. Meanwhile, a larger-scale conversation with people on the floor would need to be initiated when trying to discuss general cleanliness and upkeep of shared spaces like the pantry.
Pit-stops are necessary in life, and racing
In most races, a minimum of one to two pit-stops would need to be made for services such as refuelling and tire replacement. The timings of these pit-stops depend on the race team’s strategy, and they aim to facilitate a smooth, complete race with desirable outcomes for the driver. Sometimes, pit-stops need to be made out of necessity or emergency, even if they are undesirable for the race. More re-servicing of the car might be required for these stops, such as a complete replacement of certain car parts. Applying this to communal living, it is crucial that we go beyond the initial orientation phase and pause to reflect as the semester passes. While most of the ground-rules are typically set at the beginning of the semester, it is completely normal for them to evolve, as people settle into the actual experience of living together.
Furthermore, depending on one’s assessment of the situation, ‘emergency pit-stops’ might be required along the way. If there are certain things that one can no longer tolerate, or if relationships turn sour due to misunderstandings or misalignment in living habits, it is necessary to convene a meeting as soon as possible. By talking things out and confronting the situation at hand, issues can be better resolved, and tensions could potentially dissolve more quickly. This ensures that the peaceful and amicable relations are maintained or restored, and everyone moves forward on the same note. Without tackling the situations that arise, problems could snowball, and this would only lead to added stress for one’s university life.
Overall, it is clear from the case of F1 that communication is a key process that pervades most aspects of our lives, regardless of the activity or situation. Having good communication skills and facilitating effective communication with peers is key to ensuring smooth and enjoyable communal living. We hope that you have had some meaningful takeaways from this article, and if you have any experiences to share with regards to communal living (or other analogies, maybe 😊), do post them on Instagram and tag us @nusresidentiallife, we would love to hear it.