Even being best friends with someone sometimes isn’t enough preparation for living together. And living with someone random definitely can be a mixed bag. For instance, I have a randomly assigned roommate this semester with whom I get along well. Last semester, though, my randomly assigned roommate pooped on our bathroom floor multiple times and stole my personal belongings.
Another one of my roommates I have known since high school. She’s my best friend, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been times where we have been frustrated with each other or needed to talk things out while living together.
It’s difficult to live with someone, whether you’ve known them for years or they just showed up in your apartment one day, and there are plenty of things I wish I’d known before walking into my bathroom to see human feces on the floor.
Regardless of how well you get along with your roommates, there will likely be times when you find yourselves in conflict. Even if it’s something simple like someone is frustrated over dirty dishes in the sink. It’s crucial to have the skills to be able to diffuse and navigate conflict properly in order to maintain a good relationship with your roommates.
Obviously, the best way to solve conflict with people you live with is to stop it before it even starts. The only way to do this is to ensure that you have an open line of communication between yourself and your roommates. The most common source of agitation between roommates is different ideas on how the living area should be maintained.
If one person in the house has the expectation that the house will be hospital-level clean, and another person doesn’t mind week-old dishes in the sink, there will probably be some tension.
Those who live on campus are familiar with the roommate agreement that you have to sign with your RA at the beginning of the school year, but I would suggest having a written agreement of some sort with your roommates whether you live on campus or not. That way there is never a question as to whose responsibility certain chores are.
A written agreement could contain who is responsible for doing chores on certain days, and how you and your roommates will divide up who buys household necessities (cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc). With written agreements, there is never a question as to who should be doing what, and you might find your living area a lot cleaner as a result.
Talking It Out
If a written agreement feels too formal, a simple conversation may be enough. If you feel your roommate isn’t pulling their weight around the house, start off by letting them know. It seems so simple, but sometimes people don’t know their behavior is bothering you until you tell them, and that might be all it takes for them to change their behavior.
The important thing is that if you have an agreement like this–you stick to it. That way no one gets frustrated because all the work is on them, and none of the work is on someone else. And, if someone still isn’t pulling their weight, they have no excuse when you call them out for it, because they know the expectations that were laid there for them.
Keeping communication open
Whether it be holding someone accountable for chores, or something deeper like a personal argument–it is important to keep communication open between all parties. You are much less likely to experience conflict if you have a safe space to discuss your feelings openly, and when conflict arises, open communication allows for issues to be resolved most effectively.
Though this is the best way to resolve conflict, it can often be very difficult to initiate dialogue when you are having an issue with someone. My recommendation would be to take yourself out of the home, that way it doesn’t seem like such a big deal.
For example, ask the roommate you’re having an issue with to get coffee, dinner, or even go to the library and study with you. Once you find yourself outside of the home, it might feel more organic and less stressful to bring up the issue at hand. While hanging out, you can more naturally bring up the issue in conversation than you could through simple confrontation.
Don’t make mountains out of molehills
When you’re frustrated, you may find yourself bursting to confront your roommate. In times like these, it is helpful to take a deep breath and a step back from the situation and make sure you’re reacting appropriately.
It is important to weigh the good and bad that can come from discussions with your roommates. Whatever happens, you still have to live with them. That can often be hard to remember in the heat of the moment, but it is essential to consider to be able to maintain your relationship following conflicts you experience.
Constantly reminding your roommates of what you think they’re doing wrong likely isn’t the best solution. Don’t let yourself get walked all over, either. It is important to find a happy medium with yourself and those you live with in order to so that you can all be as comfortable as possible.
Find A Mediator
If you find yourself in a serious or recurring issue it can be helpful to have an impartial third party to help you and your roommates through. If you live on campus, this is where your RA can be a great help to you.
Having someone else there while you work through a conflict can help prevent one person from speaking over another, or from an argument getting out of hand. If you don’t want to reach out to your RA, or you don’t live on campus, you could substitute them for a friend who is not involved in the conflict.
This makes sure everyone’s opinions can be heard, and an impartial third party can help bring the goal of your conversations back into focus.
Conflict with those you live with is inevitable. With these tools in your arsenal you should be able to minimize or successfully resolve the beef you may find yourself in with your roommates. No one should have to live in situations where they feel disrespected, uncomfortable, or frustrated.
Living with roommates can be difficult at times, but it is not impossible. A little communication can go a long way.