Roommate conflict is a lose-lose situation. When you and your roommate are at odds with each other, it can cause tension and overall negative energy within your dorm. Whether your roommate was randomly selected or one of your friends, sometimes conflict can arise due to a difference in lifestyle or lack of communication. If you and your roommate(s) are finding it difficult to live with each other, hopefully, these tips will help you out.
1. Bring it up
An important first step is to acknowledge that there is a conflict with you and your roommate. Whatever the reasons might be, it’s important that you open up about how you have been feeling as a result of the conflict. It might be awkward if you aren’t really close to them and only know each other by living with them. At some point, you have to get past this and ask for a few minutes just to talk. If it’s true what they say about college preparing you for the real world, sometimes you’ll have to deal with people even if you don’t want to. You both are young adults in college, so having a conversation would be an important first step in resolving the conflict.
2. Set boundaries
During the conversation that you have with your roommate, an important talking point that you should bring up is your personal boundaries. Boundaries are crucial for everyone to set for themselves and know when someone or something oversteps them. This is especially true for roommates since you are living with them regardless if they are a random roommate or one of your friends. Roommate conflict can arise if they overstep your boundaries such as invading your personal space, or staying up later than you and preventing you from getting proper sleep at night. Having your own side of the dorm is one way to set boundaries and should represent what you consider your personal space. When having a conversation with your roommate, let them know that your boundaries are non-negotiable. You would like to have your personal space and belongings kept to yourself. You would like to go to bed at a specific time. Don’t worry about coming across as bossy or too demanding. By including these in the conversation, you are making yourself a priority which is highly important to your mental and overall health.
3. Make ground rules
When talking with your roommate about conflict, the goal is to come up with a solution. This solution can be in the form of clearly established ground rules for everyone living in the dorm. Let your roommate know what time you plan to wake up, when you have class, when you plan on coming back, and when you plan to go to sleep or need quiet time. You don’t need strict rules like “lights off at 10:00” every night. There should not be one person in charge of another, rather the two of you co-existing with each other. If you plan on going to sleep at 10:00, try to come to an agreement where your roommate leaves the room or agrees to be quiet. If you want, type out these rules so you can go back to refer to them. They don’t have to be displayed in the room unless you want to have that constant reminder. The earlier you establish these rules, the less likely you will experience roommate conflict.
4. Get to know them
This tip mostly applies if your roommate was randomly selected and you haven’t met before you started living with each other. Ideally, you would want to get to know them early on instead of waiting for a conflict to arise. If you don’t want to have an official “talk”, an alternative could be to have a nice chat. This chat makes sure the stakes are low and just a simple way to get to know what makes them tick. You could talk about classes, interests, or hobbies. By trying to understand them, it could become clear why they do the things they do that you might not like. They might have trouble making friends and prefers an online community or they miss their significant other and wants to spend as much time as possible. This is also a way to build a sense of trust with them. If you share a sense of understanding with each other, they will be less likely to do the things that bother you. Instead of being rivals with each other, it’s better to be allies.
5. Be assertive, but not aggressive
When talking with your roommate if the conflict has gotten to be too much or has not improved, how you talk with them matters. Be aware of your tone and how you are coming across to them. If they sense hostility, they will also be likely to retaliate by yelling back at you or get defensive. Even if they deny that they haven’t done anything wrong or disregard your complaints, stay calm. It might feel cathartic to take out your frustrations, but there are better ways to get it out. Stand your ground and let your voice be heard.
6. Spend less time in your room
You do not have to deal with the conflict if it is draining too much of your energy. If you have tried talking to your roommate and there’s no improvement, it’s best not to be surrounded by that negative energy. Once you have woken up and gotten ready for your day, do your best to avoid coming back to your room if you can help it. Pack everything you’ll need for classes, meetings, etc. Eat your meals at dining halls, find somewhere to study, and spend time with your friends. You might not get a chance to nap unless you find a corner somewhere in the library where no one goes. This is not a defeatist approach. If you have done everything you could to handle the conflict, you shouldn’t dwell too much on trying to change them. Only be in your room if it’s necessary and hopefully, the room will be empty and you’ll be alone.
7. Talk to your RA
It’s the RA’s job to be there for you and your needs whenever you need them, especially issues with your roommate. Set up a time for the two of you to talk about the conflict and they will help you figure out a way to resolve it. If it involves having a guided mediation, then so be it. It might be weird or juvenile, but having your RA present as a third party gives an outsider’s perspective which can be helpful to get to the root of the problem. Involving your RA also lets them know what is going on, so they can follow up with you throughout the year.
8. Move out if you can
Moving out should be a last resort after trying to handle the conflict. If absolutely nothing works and they simply won’t respect your needs, it’s best to just move out if you are able to do so. It doesn’t have to be personal, sometimes people just don’t work well together or live different lifestyles. It will give you at least a peace of mind knowing that you won’t have to deal with the conflict anymore. Talk with your RA and see if there’s a space available within your residence hall or at another building.