Challenges & Problems: How to Deal With Roommate Conflicts
By Amanda Cohen
Living with another person (or people) can be extremely challenging. Whether you’re living with your best friend, a family member, a random person, or a person of the opposite sex, it doesn’t matter. Getting adjusted to another person’s living patterns, especially in a smaller space than what you’re used to, is hard and there’s definitely a learning curve involved. If you’ve never experienced any sort of conflict with your roommate/roommates, then you’re the closest thing in this world to a unicorn because I truly have never heard of a perfect roommate situation where nothing arises.
However, if you’re like 99.99% of the population that lives with a roommate/roommates and have had issues, let me help. From living in a double then a single then a sorority house and then a five-person apartment and then a two-person apartment, I’ve pretty much seen it all. So, let’s get into it: how to talk with your roommate when situations arise!
Be forward, but not aggressive
For many of us, being forward and upfront is so difficult. We often worry that we are being mean if we state our concerns outright, but it’s honestly more inconsiderate to beat around the bush and let your issues with your roommate(s) fester. The most efficient and effective way to deal with roommate issues is to deal with it head-on, even if it seems scary. Even though you may think that texting is equally as effective, it’s not and many things can be misconstrued over the phone.
You don’t need to set up a meeting with a Gmail event or anything, but just pick a casual moment, like when you guys are watching TV, to bring up whatever issue you’re having. This is a great jumping off point and a great way to clear the air in an informal, kind, but straightforward manner. If your roommate becomes defensive, try to calm him/her down by saying that it’s not her fault and that you understand he/she would never do anything intentionally to bother you, but you wanted to talk about it because you care about your friendship with him/her.
Never be passive-aggressive
A perfect example of this is if your roommate never washes his/her dishes and just leaves them in the sink. Don’t just start leaving your dirty dishes in the sink to “give them a taste of their own medicine,” keep washing your dishes and even do their dishes from time to time. If you start not doing your own dishes, it will do more harm than good. Also, you may think it’s easier to not deal with your problem up front and just be passive about it (not even intentionally passive-aggressive), but eventually you will get so annoyed that being passive will turn into being passive-aggressive and then no one is happy.
If your roommate point-blank asks you if you’re angry about something, tell them yes and explain what’s upsetting you; don’t just brush it off and say “I’m fine” when you’re really not. If you want to make a roommate situation work, you need to be honest with him/her and honest with yourself. If you are about to enter a new roommate situation and you are starting to worry, make a preventative list and clear the air with your roommate(s) about your expectations and how you want to handle issues if they arise.
Everything is better with a plan
Like I said above, if you want to get ahead of negative situations before they even occur, sit down with your roommate(s) and set up an “agreement” of some sorts that is fair, doable, and not aggressive. It doesn’t have to be a contract or anything; rather, you can label it as a cute little list entitled “Household Etiquette.” Instead of explaining what this list is, I’m just going to give you some stuff to include on it:
● Wash your dishes and pots and pans after use
● Take out the trash when it’s full
● Clean out expired foods items (that are his/hers) and throw them away
● Wipe down countertops after dinner
● Alternate who mops and vacuums the floors
● Be considerate about having people over (i.e. if someone has a big exam, don’t throw a huge party)
● Respect one another’s privacy and space
● Be considerate of everyone’s schedules
There is nothing that you and your roommate can’t handle! Just remember (1) honesty is the best policy, (2) no one wants conflict to occur, (3) no one is upsetting anyone on purpose… probably, (4) handle things head on, and (5) passive-aggressiveness is never the answer.
Whether you are in a tiny dorm room, an apartment, or a house, you will have to make some compromises when a roommate (or roommates) are involved. Be straightforward, but also remember that being a good roommate is a two-way street; you have to be a good roommate as well in order to expect a good roommate in return.
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