Community building is a combination of having a floor of residents living together, sharing facilities, getting to know one another on their own, and programming that is designed to help residents form connections. The end result of all this is the development of strong relationships between residents and the residents and the RA.
As you get to know your residents on an individual basis you more often than not become friends with these wonderful people. Inevitably though your residents at some point will put you in a position where you have to do your job. This is where you need to take a step back and not let the RA/Friend relationship have an effect on your decisions.
The RA/Friend relationship is one of those great, fun parts of the position that can also be a bummer at times.
How can you go about successfully managing friendly relations with your residents while still upholding the responsibilities of your position?
•Let your residents know right up front what to expect: The best way to approach this relationship is to let your residents know, “Hey, I am here to help you and be a friend to you, but if you put me in a position where I have to do my job then I will.”
•Clear expectations and consistent policy enforcement can help you earn the respect of your residents: By letting your residents know what to expect up front, and by treating all of your residents consistently per those stated expectations, you will have the respect of the majority of your residents, even if you have to write them up.
•Genuinely care about your residents: As you go about living with your residents and fulfilling your position responsibilities, spend time with your residents and really get to know them. Support them and help them move in a forward direction. If you work hard to really establish quality relationships with your residents, the majority will understand in those few instances when they place you in a position of confronting or documenting their behavior.
It is important as an RA to work towards positive relations with all residents. In some instances however, you need to realize that some residents may not be developmentally ready to manage living in a community and maintaining a relationship with someone that they view as an authority figure. Work to assist these students with their personal development by treating them with the same respect and genuine concern that you would provide to any resident who lives on your floor.
Submitted by Bo Clarke, Resident Assistant, Appalachian State University