How to Handle Roommate Conflict
Written by Sara Holsing, Class of 2020
College is a wonderful time to branch out, make new friends, and explore new interests. It can also be the first time you’ve had to share a bedroom with someone else who isn’t a sibling, if you’ve shared a room with anyone at all. Although you cannot be guaranteed a perfectly conflict-free experience, you can make sure that you have a better experience by equipping yourself with tools and techniques on how to handle future conflicts.
1. Pick Your Battles
Identify what are deal-breakers for you. Maybe it’s not that big of a problem if your roommate has their friends over on the weekends since classes are not going on. But if they have them over on weeknights when you have classes the next day and you like to study in the room, maybe that’s a point of discussion. This could affect your studies and even your sleep if you have differing sleep habits. Additionally, think about whether or not, if roles were switched, would you want your roommate coming to you about changing aspects of themselves? Are you irritated with how they keep their space despite the fact that nothing spills over to your side? It’s okay if any of these things bother you! But you must decide whether or not it’s worth the energy and confrontation. Sometimes, the best thing can be to just let things go.
2. Communicate Openly and Honestly
Next, when you’ve figured out what might be troubling you, determine how you’re going to address it with your roommate. It’s best practice if you keep comments and emotions off of social media (you really don’t need to send that snarky comment to Twitter) and if you keep other people out of your conflict. Unless it’s an issue that is making you very uncomfortable, feel unsafe, or may be breaking the law, you should not try to tag-team against your roommate and involve another person. When talking to your roommate, be direct and use “I” statements to address the issue so it focuses on you and how you’re feeling rather than putting sole blame on your roommate. For example, “I feel very upset whenever you use my charger without asking me first.” You should be honest about how you are feeling. But remember that you are both human and make mistakes so deserve to be respected.
3. Revisit Your Roommate Agreement
Most colleges will offer or require a roommate contract in the beginning of the year to discuss things like preferences regarding guests, sleeping schedules, study habits, and cleanliness. Later into the semester, you can often forget what exactly the two of you agreed upon, so take a look at that again. Of course, that can be amended and changed due to circumstances. If some of the initial things that you agreed upon weren’t realistic, maybe it’s time to decide new standards! If you or your roommate are going outside of the contract that both of you had signed, note that this was a binding contract and that you had both agreed upon certain standards.
4. Be Open-Minded and Flexible
After you have discussed what’s bothering you, discuss solutions with your roommate or even offer some of your own. It’s helpful if you have at least one resolution in mind so you are not just complaining. But also know that the solution you might want might not be what your roommate wants, therefore, you should be willing to compromise and negotiate. If your roommate really values having a space to have their friends in, you could decide what times they could come over and when they couldn’t. You could avoid nights where you are busy with classes the next day. Then you could have your study time and they can have quality time with their friends. Or if you’re willing, you could find a study room or a quiet spot in the library. Keep in mind that living with other people takes work and flexibility, so you should try to be open-minded to find a solution that helps both parties to win.
5. Talk to Your RA or CA
If you feel unsafe, or are unsure of how to navigate a confrontation with your roommate, seek the help of your RA (resident assistant) or CA (community advisor). Most RA’s are going to be trained in mediating and can give advice on how to navigate this or even provide other resources if they feel unequipped for certain situations. A third-party could also help convey how you’re feeling to your roommate if they are not hearing you after you tried talking to them. This is part of your RA’s job, so don’t be afraid to ask for help when you’ve tried all other options!
Overall, conflict can be uncomfortable and tough to manage. But it can also be a great opportunity to grow! Try not to avoid problems that may arise because more often than not, they will not be resolved on their own. You will also be a lot happier. Even though you may not be best friends with your roommate, you deserve to feel like your room is a safe space and that you are a respected person and they do, too. Some of the best roommates are the ones you can live well with.