Today’s post comes from Tonya J. Ackley, coordinator of community engagement at the Wick Chapel on our campus.
Living on campus and having a roommate can be very exciting, but it can also create a bit of anxiety, especially if you will be rooming with someone you have never met. One major challenge is learning how to deal with roommate or housemate conflict. Here is my top 10 list to help you.
1. Get to Know Your Roommate and Housemates
Take time to establish a connection with your roommate or housemates and you may have fewer issues than those students who haven’t. You don’t need to be friends to be roommates, but the better you know each other, the easier it is to approach each other if there is a problem. Understanding your roommate’s personality and preferences can help prevent conflicts and miscommunication.
Treat others the way you would like to be treated. This may sound simple enough, but it requires effort, especially when you feel you’re not being respected. Always be considerate of your roommate’s feelings and opinions. This will help to establish a foundation of respect in your apartment.
Lack of communication is the biggest culprit when it comes to roommate conflicts. Be honest with your roommate if there is a problem. Approach him or her in a respectful manner and talk face to face. Notes, text messages, and “nasty grams” are not effective means of communication. Avoid assessing blame, name-calling, and swearing. Keep your tone calm and polite. Also, don’t address issues in front of other people. Talk privately.
4. Be Open-Minded and Accepting of Differences
You don’t have to have a ton in common to get along. In fact, living with someone who has different opinions, experiences, and perspectives can be a lot more fun. You can learn a lot from your roommate and your roommate can learn a lot from you. Try to value each other’s uniqueness.
5. Be Flexible
You’re not perfect and neither is your roommate. We all have flaws. Decide what is worth having a conflict over and what is not. For example, you may not like waking up to a hair dryer at 7 a.m., but isn’t that better than being kept up all night to the sounds of your roommate vomiting after a night of heavy drinking?
6. Set Clear Expectations
Your housemates can’t read your mind. Don’t assume everyone is on the same page. If you have an expectation, share it with your roommates and explain why you feel that way. Ask them if they are comfortable with your expectation and if not, find a way to compromise or an alternate solution. For example, you may want your roommate to let you know in advance before he or she brings over guests so you’re not caught off guard. Let him or her know what your expectations are and why. Be specific.
7. Establish Boundaries
Again, your housemates can’t read your mind. Let them know where your boundaries are and gently tell your housemates when those boundaries have been crossed. Let your housemates know about your “hot buttons,” triggers, pet peeves and other information you feel they should know.
8. Be Responsible and Accept Responsibility
You are ultimately responsible for yourself and your actions. Take ownership of your mistakes and make every effort to correct the problem.
9. Compromise or Find Alternative Solution
You can’t always get your way. Compromise is sometimes necessary. Finding middle ground isn’t always the right answer; an alternative solution may be needed. This is based on how important or how strongly you feel about the issue.
10. Follow the Three-Day Rule
If there is a problem with your roommate or housemates, address the issue within three days. If you have not addressed the issue within three days, then let it go. At this point, you have decided that the issue wasn’t that important to bring up.
If you’re having trouble dealing with a situation within your apartment, please contact your Resident Advisor for assistance. RAs are trained to help you navigate through roommate conflicts.
Residence life coordinators are also available to help and can offer advice, guidance, and support. If you can’t reach a resolution, the Office of Residential Life and Housing will make the final decision to resolve the situation.