Three students taking a selfie together in front of the flatirons by farrand field.

Whether you’re moving home or living with roommates this summer, conflict is bound to happen. Living with other people can be an adjustment, especially as our schedules and routines change. Here are a few tips to help you make the most of living with family or roommates over the summer.

1. Revisit expectations

A lot of conflict between housemates arises from having different expectations, miscommunication and other subtle misperceptions. As we approach the end of the semester, it’s important to keep in mind that your schedule and living arrangements may change. Even if your living arrangements aren’t changing right now, summertime can be a great opportunity to revisit and adjust expectations for living together.

Talk with your roommates or family members about expectations, habits and routines to be aware of. Some topics to discuss may include:

  • Morning and bedtime routines (quiet hours, class or work times, etc.)
  • Cleanliness of shared spaces (clutter, laundry, dishes, etc.)
  • Visitors (friends, significant others, overnight guests, etc.)
  • Borrowing or using each other’s things (electronics, food, etc.)
  • Purchasing common items (cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc.)
  • Parking arrangements
  • Preferred ways to address conflict and discuss issues

Create a house agreement to establish common ground rules and hold everyone accountable. Make sure everyone is on the same page and that the rules are outlined together with input from each person. Use the topics above to draft an initial agreement and add any additional information as needed.

2. Practice communicating

If you’re upset with a housemate, it’s better to address it sooner than later before it festers. Addressing issues through text, social media or a note on the door can seem easier but often leads to miscommunication or increased frustration. Since we can’t control how the message is received, it may lead to more (and bigger) issues down the road.

Instead, choose a time to bring up the issue in person, ideally when you are both at home with no distractions. Make a plan and think about how you can express your needs—this will help you feel more prepared, and the conversation won’t catch you off guard. Remember to use “I” statements to describe how the situation makes you feel. For instance, “I feel upset when guests come over late at night because I have an early morning work schedule and I want to ensure that I get enough sleep before work.”

While you’re having a conversation with your roommate or family, be sure to listen for understanding and ask follow-up questions to ensure you’re interpreting what they’re saying correctly. Resist the urge to formulate a response to what they’re saying while they’re speaking. Instead, focus your full attention on the emotions, issues and reasoning that your roommate is bringing up.

3. Everyone handles conflict differently (and that’s okay)

People handle conflict differently, based on the situation, their conflict style and the person the conflict is with. However, there are some common themes that may show up in a person’s response again and again. Learning how you approach conflict can be a great opportunity to learn or refine your skills for successful conflict resolution. 

You can take this Conflict Style quiz to learn more about your approach and how your default response impacts your behaviors and attitudes toward conflict. Encourage those around you – roommates, friends, family – to take it, too, so you can learn how to work better together. Sometimes, these styles may appear in conflict with one another, so knowing other people’s styles can be helpful in reframing your approach or working to find alternative solutions when conflict does arise.

4. Be open to compromise

While it would be nice, change doesn’t happen overnight. Disagreements don’t always resolve the way we’d like, and more often than not, seeing progress requires a series of conversations and a willingness to keep trying.

If things feel like they’re unresolved, let the person know you appreciate their time and you’d like to follow up with them in the future. If things are resolved quickly, share your appreciation and gratitude with the other person and let them know you value their help and input.

The Conflict Resolution team provides services to help students navigate conflicts in a variety of relationships, including roommates, partners, friends, professors, classmates and more. They offer free workshops and coaching sessions for students looking to improve their skills around conflict management and conflict resolution. 

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