Advice column: I'm being put off by my room-mate's personal habits

Dear Ash

I share a room with a new colleague who has a number of irritating habits and her behaviour is grating on me to such an extent that I am finding it difficult to concentrate on my work. Aside from failing to use deodorant, she has a tendency to eat her lunch at her desk and to speak with her mouth full. She also seems to have a habit of biting her nails, which quite frankly repulses me. I am used to having my own space and I find that sharing a room has been difficult to adjust to, but my colleague’s disgusting habits are just making things much worse. My colleague is no doubt a nice person and I don’t want to hurt her feelings, but she is an irritant.

Ash replies:

I’m sure we all have the potential for being able to irritate others with certain personal traits and nuances. However, it does not seem as if your colleague’s behaviour is anything particularly out of the ordinary from any of the common types of behaviour sometimes displayed, tolerated and endured in the office environment.

A wise man once said that: “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” You already seem to concede that the underlying issue and resultant tension is caused primarily not by your colleague’s behaviour but by the difficulty you seem to be having in accepting that you have to share your office space with someone else.

I therefore suggest that you make the effort to get to know your colleague better in order to gain a better understanding of her as a person, rather than focusing on her bad habits. You will most likely continue to spend a great deal of time in each other’s company and it is therefore important that you accept this and attempt to address the tension that is clearly already building up between you.

Attempting to tell your colleague about her irritating habits is unlikely to help the situation. Instead, make a point of going out to lunch together in order to get to know each other, and in time you will hopefully gain a better appreciation and understanding of each other as people, with less focus on habits. Remember she may also have issues with some of your particular habits and traits too…

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor:, or mail to Studio 2001, Mile End, Paisley PA1 1JS. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Registrar’s Department. For one-to-one advice, contact Katie Wood, manager in the Registrar’s Department on 0131 476 8105/8200, or

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