Sharing a living space with others can sometimes lead to miscommunication or differences of opinion. Whether you are still getting to know your roommate or you are the best of friends, disagreements are normal and bound to happen from time to time.
How you handle these conflicts can strengthen your relationship and create a living environment where everyone feels safe, comfortable and respected. Here are some tips for handling disagreements with roommates when they arise.
Start the conversation
If you are upset with your roommate, it’s better to address it rather than letting it fester. Choose a time to bring up the issue in person, ideally when you are both at home with no distractions. Addressing issues over social media or text messages is not always the best way to bring up frustrations with roommates because we can’t control the tone or manner in which the message is received. Be kind, be direct, be willing to listen and try to understand the other person’s perspective.
Find common ground
When there is a disagreement, do your best to find a compromise that everyone can live with. The goal is to find a good solution to the issue and not necessarily to “win.”
Set ground rules
Everyone goes through a period of change and transition at the beginning of a semester, whether we’re adjusting to a new class schedule, starting a new job or joining a new club. Have a conversation about expectations, habits and routines with your roommate—quiet hours, cleanliness of shared spaces, overnight visitors, borrowing each other’s things, music/TV volume, etc. Even if you went over this when you first moved in, you might need to adjust some of your ground rules as daily routines change.
You might even consider creating or revisiting a roommate agreement to hold everyone accountable to your arrangements. On-campus residents can reach out to their RA for help in setting up a roommate agreement, and off-campus residents can use this suggested template (PDF).
Respect the ground rules that you and your roommate have set up. If you agreed to share grocery expenses with your roommate, letting your friends come over and eat is likely to frustrate your roommate.
Be willing to change
College is a time for learning and growing. Just because you have always done something a certain way does not mean it’s the only way to do it. Be flexible with your roommate and willing to try new things.
Reach out for help
Sometimes we need additional help when it comes to resolving roommate disagreements. If you live on campus, reach out to your RA for help in coming to an agreement with your roommate over an issue. Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution is also a resource for students and can help with one-on-one conflict coaching, mediation and facilitated conversations.