How to Solve Roommate Conflicts

Let’s face it: sharing personal space is HARD. Roommate squabbles are inevitable, but we’ve got you covered. Let’s imagine a few common scenarios and see how to resolve them quickly and amicably.

SCENARIO 1: Your roommate is always a little messy, but lately, you can’t walk to the door without stepping on her clothes or papers.

SOLUTION: Use I-statements to avoid accusations. “I have a hard time relaxing in our room right now because it’s messier than usual. I’m so afraid that I’m going to accidentally break something of yours! Can we turn on some music and tidy up?”

SCENARIO 2: You’re a night owl. Your roommate is basically Ben Franklin: early to bed and early to rise. He won’t let you keep the lights and music on late, but he has no problem waking you up at 6 a.m. while he laces up his running shoes.

SOLUTION: Compromise will often be your BFF, and it’s a great skill to deploy here. Tell him that you want to respect both of your routines, and ask if you can create a joint schedule. Two nights a week, you get to keep your light on, but you’ll wear headphones; the other nights, you’ll go to a coffee shop. He’ll lay out his clothes the night before to keep the morning noise at a minimum. Both of you will invest in sleep masks.

SCENARIO 3: You share a suite that has a kitchen and bathroom. You’ve created a chore schedule and split the bills equitably, but you keep arguing over how those tasks get done. It drives you nuts when Roommate A puts the toilet paper roll facing down, but Roommate B yells at you for putting the dishes away wrong.

SOLUTION: You can use both I-statements and compromise here, but you have to start with active listening. Sit down and let everyone calmly explain why they do things as they do. Listen without judgement! Try to appreciate their habits and preferences. Once everyone feels heard and respected, you can work toward resolution.

The Power of Positive Phrasing

If you sound angry, your roommate will get defensive. You’ll focus on each other’s anger rather than the source of the conflict. Instead, remain calm and keep these positively phrased swaps at the ready.

Instead of…                                                            Try…

  • I don’t understand why…                                        I’m working to understand why…
  • You forgot…                                                             You needed to remember…
  • Don’t do X.                                                                I like it when Y happens.
  • I won’t…until you…                                                   Once you…I will…
  • You never do X.                                                       You frequently do Y.

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