Roommates, Part 2. Conflict Resolution.

When Conflict Happens

 

You did your homework, or so you thought. You carefully reviewed the pros and cons of sharing a living space with another human, found the perfect roommate, and took all the appropriate steps to ensure living together would be nirvana. Yet there’s trouble in paradise. UGH. Now how are you going to resolve the conflict that has arisen with your roomie? You may feel like this is the worst, but rest assured there are tales about roommate conflicts that will make your issue seem like a walk in the park.

Conflict happens. Suddenly two people who thought nothing could ruin their friendship find themselves struggling to communicate about even the smallest things. Speaking up about things that bother you before that bother festers is tough; most people try to avoid unpleasant conversations at all costs. When living with a roommate, it’s critical to maintain a good and cordial relationship with that person. Here are some tips on ways to resolve conflict regardless of the cause of the trouble.

How To Share Your Feelings Without Starting A Fight

While you may have discussed who will pay what bill, rules pertaining to guests, and how clean you want to keep the apartment, most of us learn the importance of these conversations after a few bad experiences. If you haven’t communicated your preferences with your roommate, they probably have no idea that they have certain behaviors that drive you nuts. Moreover, you’re probably driving them bananas, too.

When an issue arises, communication is key to successfully solving the problem. Most roommate conflicts are the result of miscommunication or, in some cases, a total lack of communication. If you can communicate effectively, it will be much easier to develop a comfortable living environment for yourself and your roommate. Avoiding an uncomfortable conversation won’t make issues go away, and will only increase your level of frustration.

  • Don’t be passive aggressive by leaving sticky notes, sending emails, or texting when you probably see your roommate every day. Instead, ask if you can have an in-person conversation.
  • Start the conversation by letting your roommate know that you care about them and about your home, and you want living together to be the best experience possible for both of you.
  • Don’t approach your roommate when you’re angry as that’s going to put them on the defensive, and they’ll be less likely to consider your concerns if they feel attacked.
  • Don’t accuse your roommate of anything. Instead, use “I” statements like, “I feel really frustrated when I wash the dishes and then I come home and there are dirty dishes in the sink. I would really appreciate it if we could come together on how to keep the kitchen clean.” By using “I” statements, you’re expressing how youfeel instead of placing blame on the other person.
  • Practice active listening by maintaining eye contact, nodding your head, and showing that you are listening. Carefully listen to what your roommate says instead of becoming defensive.
  • Acknowledge your roommate’s point of view by saying something affirming like “I can understand why it’s difficult for you to wash the dishes when you work late and are tired.”  Making your roommate feel heard can really help to diffuse anger or frustration. Everyone wants their feelings to be acknowledged, and this is an important step in resolving conflict.
  • Don’t complain about your roommate’s behaviors before having an open discussion with them.

After you and your roommate have discussed the problem(s), work together to agree how to move forward. In a shared living space, you can’t expect the people you’re living with to acquiesce to all of your preferences. Instead, you need to work out a compromise you can all live with.

If, for example, the issue is something small like doing the dishes, it’s unrealistic to expect a messy roommate to suddenly become neat overnight. If having a messy kitchen makes you anxious, you may be able to agree that the messy person is responsible for a chore you don’t like while you do all the dishes. Understand that you both will have to give a little in order to create and maintain a peaceful living environment. The most important thing to remember is that letting minor issues accumulate and build up could result in one of you unleashing anger that doesn’t match the situation or living in an environment full of resentment.

While everyone appreciates honesty, presentation is everything. Before having that comversation, think about how you’d feel if that person asked you to change something about your own habits and behaviors — and how you’d wish to be spoken to, in the face of a situation like this.

  • Try to be careful about the frequency of discussing your roommate’s behavior.
  • Try to be fair and balanced.
  • Aim for a compromise that works for your both.
  • Respect your roommate’s views and try to understand their backgrounds.

Imagine a situation where your roommate brings over their significant other during a designated day over the weekend, but that’s also the only day you have to prepare for your next week’s work.

A potential solution may be to work out a reasonable schedule or timeframe, where quiet time is set for you and an alternate time is set for your roommate to entertain.

Remember that a well-constructed relationship is where both people involved are examining what’s needed on their end. If a common space is being shared, then you’re both equally liable to take ownership of what goes on in that space. Oftentimes the best roommates are the ones who are simply capable of being respectful and courteous to one another!

 

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