In a perfect world everyone would simply get along, but when you live with a roommate you’re bound to enter disputes from time to time. The important thing is to try to resolve any disputes in a mature and timely manner. After all, you don’t want tension between you and your roommate to lead to an uncomfortable and awkward living situation.
Cool Down Before Talking Things Over
A dispute with your roommate can leave you feeling a little heated afterwards. Walk away from the situation until you’ve had some time to think clearly and cool down. Chances are your roommate needs a little time to cool off as well. Wait to approach your roommate to come to a resolution until after your emotions are in check. Trying to resolve a dispute when you’re still angry is counterproductive.
Choose Your Words Wisely
While you’re calming your nerves, take some time to think about what you want to say to your roommate. Let’s say the original dispute stemmed from your roommate’s complaint about how dirty you’ve been leaving the kitchen. Your automatic response may be to get defensive and start naming all the things he or she does in the space that annoy you, but you won’t resolve the dispute by bringing up irrelevant issues and complaints. Focus on the immediate situation and speak in terms of how you feel. Rather than saying, “I wish you’d get off my back. I’ll clean the kitchen when I can find a free moment in my life,” take a less aggressive approach. Your roommate will be more receptive to you saying something along the lines of “I’m really busy with work right now, and when I come home I really need a break. I feel like I’m being ordered around. Can I clean the kitchen this weekend? We can figure out a cleaning schedule that works for both of us.” Whatever you say, avoid using insults or being condescending. Keep the discussion peaceful and it will be resolved much faster.
Listen to Your Roommate
One of the best things you can do is to hear your roommate out. This isn’t a one-way conversation. You’ll avoid conflicts in the future if you take time to truly listen and to understand his or her perspective.
Plan How to Avoid Further Disputes
While you and your roommate are resolving the immediate issue, be sure to discuss how these kinds of situations should be handled–or avoided–in the future. You may have to come to a compromise. A huge component of conflict resolution is communication, and speaking candidly about your feelings will clear the air. You can even go so far as to create a roommate agreement or contract, wherein you lay some ground rules.
Roommate disputes can range from domestic indifferences to personality conflicts. Whatever you do, don’t bottle in your true feelings and intentionally avoid discussing the dispute with your roommate. You’ll both have more respect for one another if you resolve the situation quickly and in a mature manner.
Rachael Weiner: I’m a communications professional for a non-profit, which financially necessitates my status as an apartment dweller. Constantly “on-the-go,” I’ve resided in five different apartments across the United States over the past five years. Roommate issues, budgeting, organizing and handling problem neighbors are my specialty.