Published: Aug. 28, 2019

Sharing a living space with others can sometimes lead to miscommunication or differences of opinion. Disagreements are normal and happen from time to time. How you handle them can help create a living environment that everyone is happy to come home to at the end of the day.

Here are some tips for living with roommates and handling disagreements when they arise:

Chip and his roommates at CU Boulder

Set ground rules

Have a conversation about expectations, habits and routines when you move in together. Some topics to discuss include:

  • Quiet hours

  • Cleanliness of shared spaces

  • Overnight visitors

  • Borrowing each other’s things

  • Music/TV volume

Consider creating a roommate agreement to establish ground rules and hold everyone accountable to your arrangements. On-campus residents can reach out to their RA for help in setting up a roommate agreement. Off-campus residents can use this suggested template.

Respect boundaries

Respect the ground rules that you and your roommate have set up. If you agreed to take turns cleaning up shared spaces with your roommate, avoiding this chore when it’s your turn is likely to frustrate your roommate.

Open communication

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 text message or social media is not always the best way to bring up frustrations with roommates. We often can’t control the tone or manner in which the message is received. Be kind, be direct and be willing to listen.

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.”

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. They can help with one-on-one conflict coaching, mediation and facilitated conversations.