Addressing Roommate Conflicts

Living with another person is never a perfectly symbiotic relationship, especially when you’re assigned to room with someone you barely know. Some get lucky with roommate assignments and choices, but it’s not uncommon for a living situation to get messy after mid-semester stress kicks in. No matter what your problem with a roommate may be — she never turns out the lights, she has boys over all the time, her side of the room is a mess — you may be able to save the relationship if the conflict is handled in a constructive, patient manner.

Before addressing the problem, make sure you can clearly articulate your concerns. Identify exactly what the issues are and why they are making the rooming situation difficult. You may discover that the problems lie more with you than your roommate — but chances are, you’ll need to have that dreaded conversation.

Talk as soon as possible. The longer the problem continues, the more annoyed you’ll become and the more confrontational the discussion will be. Address your concerns immediately. Schedule your conversation when you both have ample free time to talk, and make sure it’s presented casually; you don’t want to give the impression that you’re furious at your roommate before the discussion even begins.

Once the two of you (or more, if you’re in a suite) have sat down together, explain what your concerns are and why they’ve been a problem. Be honest, and make it clear that you’re not angry, just concerned. If you’re nervous about how to handle the conversation, ask your Resident Assistant for advice. She’s trained to handle roommate difficulties and can give you some tips for how to address the problem. She’ll also make herself available to help if the problems continue, so letting her know in advance can be helpful.

After you’ve explained your concerns to the roommate, listen. Give her a chance to respond and explain herself; she may have an explanation or point of view you hadn’t yet considered, so be open-minded. Remember to be respectful and avoid verbal and personal attacks. Once you’ve both had a chance to speak your mind, work together to find a solution. This may mean compromising or changing your living habits, but if you can find a way to solve the problem before it gets out of hand.

After your discussion, be patient. Your relationship may range from awkward to tense for a few days, but if you’re both mature and responsible about compromising, you should get over the problem soon. If the issues continue or escalate, ask for help. Your Resident Assistant can step in and mediate if conflict arises. Worst case scenario, you can look for alternative rooming situations. Switching rooms or roommates partway through a semester is bothersome, but if you’re too uncomfortable in your current situation, don’t hesitate to ask.

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