How to Diffuse Roommate Disagreements

By Christine Ascher on September 14, 2017

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Even the best roommate relationships at times can become strained. When you鈥檙e living with someone, disagreements are bound to come up at least once in a while.

While these conflicts in themselves don鈥檛 have to make or break your roommate relationship, the way that you handle them could have a damaging effect. To prevent any disputes among your roommates from getting out of control, keep these tips in mind.

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Stay calm

Above all, the most important thing to do when you鈥檙e in the midst of a disagreement聽is to remain calm. If you let your negative emotions get the better of you, you might end up saying things that you鈥檒l regret.

If, on the other hand, you stay in control, you鈥檒l be much better equipped to have a rational discussion and work things out. Plus, if one person鈥檚 emotions get out of control, this tends to rub off on the others as well; in remaining calm, you will hopefully prevent them from growing unnecessarily angry and making a resolution impossible.

Compromise

When you鈥檙e in the midst of a dispute with your roommate, the quickest way to resolve things is generally to compromise. If you鈥檙e both stuck on your opposing viewpoints, you鈥檙e not going to solve anything. If, however, you show a willingness to compromise, your roommate will hopefully do the same. Then, you can meet in the middle and find a solution that you both can live with.

For instance, if your roommate is messy and it bothers you when they leave their clothes lying around, ask if they can confine the mess to their side of the room rather than demanding that they eliminate the mess altogether. While you may still have to see it, the mess at least won鈥檛 be in your way.

You鈥檙e more likely to get your roommate to agree to this than expecting them to completely change their habits, and it鈥檒l be better than no change at all. Instead of approaching disagreements by trying to force your roommate to change, approach them with compromise in mind — you鈥檒l get a lot farther this way.

Communicate

It can be dangerously easy for roommate disputes to dissolve quickly into screaming matches, which no one is likely to win. To prevent chaos from taking over, open communication is your best bet. Be honest with your roommates about how you feel, and make a concerted effort to listen to them as well.

Once you all understand each other, it should be easier to work through the problem calmly and rationally and to find a solution that addresses everyone鈥檚 complaints.

Know when to give in

When you start living with someone, you鈥檒l probably realize pretty quickly that everyone has some bad habits. While you shouldn鈥檛 be forced to live uncomfortably as a result of your roommate鈥檚 tendencies, it may be worth it to let some things slide.

If you bring up an issue with your roommate and find them utterly unwilling to compromise, take a moment to reflect on the seriousness of the argument. Are you just annoyed that your roommate tends to leave her dishes in the sink for a day before cleaning them? That may be something that would be better to just get used to.

Pick your battles and decide what鈥檚 actually worth fighting for before you get into it — you won鈥檛 be in a better position if you ruin your relationship with your roommate over something silly and ultimately inconsequential.

Look at the issue from the other person鈥檚 point of view

If your roommate approaches you with a problem or complaint, it鈥檚 a big mistake to instantly become defensive. While your first instinct may be to deny that you鈥檝e done anything wrong, take a moment to consider the situation from their point of view.

When you鈥檙e not used to sharing a room with someone, you might not instantly realize that you have some annoying habits. Consider how you would feel if the situation were reversed: would you be annoyed? Would you want things to change? Even if you wouldn鈥檛 necessarily react the same way, keep in mind that everyone has different pet peeves. Something that you deem perfectly acceptable may actually become a big annoyance to your roommate.

To prevent the conflict from getting out of control, try to consider how they feel and where they鈥檙e coming from before you react.

Use a mediator

If all else fails, it鈥檚 a good idea to bring a mediator in to help work out your roommate conflicts. This is what RAs are for — they can provide you with an outside opinion for how to resolve the problem, or, if nothing else, their presence will help to ensure that everyone is on their best behavior.

If you don鈥檛 have an RA, try to select someone who can be an unbiased third-party — that is, don鈥檛 use another one of your roommates, who may have already formed their own opinions concerning the issue, or one of your friends, who may be swayed to one side or the other out of loyalty.

Even another student from your floor may be a big help if only to ensure that your disagreement remains civil and that you come to a reasonable compromise eventually.

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