Roommate Trouble: How to Resolve Conflict

Reviewed Mar 21, 2017

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Summary

  • Set some ground rules before you move in together.
  • Be up front about your needs and expectations.
  • Calmly talk out conflicts.
  • Work out a solution.

Living with roommates can be a challenge. Despite intentions to always get along, roommate conflicts are inevitable. “She eats my food” and “He takes my parking space”—or bigger issues like “She never pays rent on time”—are common roommate complaints. Communication, however, is the key to avoiding and resolving such conflicts.

Establishing ground rules

Ideally, you and your roommate should set some ground rules before you move in together. Developing a mutual understanding on issues like paying the rent and bills, how to share the space, and division of household responsibilities can make living together more pleasant.

Being up front about your needs, lifestyle, and expectations also will help you to avoid conflict. For example, you might ask your roommates before you move in to keep the radio and TV volume down on Saturday mornings because you like to sleep late on weekends.

You may want to consider putting your ground rules in writing. Doing so clarifies expectations and serves as a permanent reminder of the rules that all roommates agreed to live by. Another idea is to periodically schedule a meeting among roommates, when you can revisit the ground rules and discuss ways to improve your living environment. Don’t complain and gripe; use this time to be constructive.

Resolving conflict

Still, conflicts will arise no matter how thorough your ground rules. For example, Susie and Joy have lived together for two years, but recent changes in Joy’s school schedule have created a new conflict. Susie practices piano in the evening, the only time she has available. Joy, however, now needs this time to study and is bothered by the noise. Susie got defensive when Joy asked her to limit her piano playing to certain nights of the week.

After Joy had a chance to cool off, they were able to work out their problem using these conflict resolution techniques:

  • Talk it out. Susie and Joy took turns listening to each other’s point of view, without interrupting, getting angry, or judging.
  • Don’t accuse or blame. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. “I am bothered by noise when I’m studying” expressed Joy; rather than “You are so inflexible.”
  • Put yourself in your roommate’s position. Susie understands how her piano playing bothers Joy. Joy understands that Susie has few alternatives other than to play in the evening after work.
  • Focus on the problem at hand. Susie and Joy avoided bringing up other grievances.
  • Avoid creating coalitions. Joy and Susie’s other roommate, Tina, is not affected by their conflict. Joy and Susie were wise to not ask Tina to take sides, which could have complicated the situation.
  • Work out a solution. Put things in perspective. Are you being unreasonable? Are there things you can do to solve the problem on your own? Susie suggested that Joy try earplugs, an option Joy hadn’t thought of. Both agreed that if the earplugs did not work, Susie would play piano on certain days of the week and limit the time. Joy agreed to study some days at the library. 
By Christine P. Martin
Source: House Mates: A Practical Guide to Living With Other People by Teona Tone and Deanna Sclar. Fawcett Columbine, 1985; Resolving Conflict: How to Turn Conflict Into Cooperation by Wendy Grant. Element, 1997; Resolving Conflict With Others and Within Yourself by Gini Graham Scott, PhD. New Harbinger Publications, 1990.

Summary

  • Set some ground rules before you move in together.
  • Be up front about your needs and expectations.
  • Calmly talk out conflicts.
  • Work out a solution.

Living with roommates can be a challenge. Despite intentions to always get along, roommate conflicts are inevitable. “She eats my food” and “He takes my parking space”—or bigger issues like “She never pays rent on time”—are common roommate complaints. Communication, however, is the key to avoiding and resolving such conflicts.

Establishing ground rules

Ideally, you and your roommate should set some ground rules before you move in together. Developing a mutual understanding on issues like paying the rent and bills, how to share the space, and division of household responsibilities can make living together more pleasant.

Being up front about your needs, lifestyle, and expectations also will help you to avoid conflict. For example, you might ask your roommates before you move in to keep the radio and TV volume down on Saturday mornings because you like to sleep late on weekends.

You may want to consider putting your ground rules in writing. Doing so clarifies expectations and serves as a permanent reminder of the rules that all roommates agreed to live by. Another idea is to periodically schedule a meeting among roommates, when you can revisit the ground rules and discuss ways to improve your living environment. Don’t complain and gripe; use this time to be constructive.

Resolving conflict

Still, conflicts will arise no matter how thorough your ground rules. For example, Susie and Joy have lived together for two years, but recent changes in Joy’s school schedule have created a new conflict. Susie practices piano in the evening, the only time she has available. Joy, however, now needs this time to study and is bothered by the noise. Susie got defensive when Joy asked her to limit her piano playing to certain nights of the week.

After Joy had a chance to cool off, they were able to work out their problem using these conflict resolution techniques:

  • Talk it out. Susie and Joy took turns listening to each other’s point of view, without interrupting, getting angry, or judging.
  • Don’t accuse or blame. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. “I am bothered by noise when I’m studying” expressed Joy; rather than “You are so inflexible.”
  • Put yourself in your roommate’s position. Susie understands how her piano playing bothers Joy. Joy understands that Susie has few alternatives other than to play in the evening after work.
  • Focus on the problem at hand. Susie and Joy avoided bringing up other grievances.
  • Avoid creating coalitions. Joy and Susie’s other roommate, Tina, is not affected by their conflict. Joy and Susie were wise to not ask Tina to take sides, which could have complicated the situation.
  • Work out a solution. Put things in perspective. Are you being unreasonable? Are there things you can do to solve the problem on your own? Susie suggested that Joy try earplugs, an option Joy hadn’t thought of. Both agreed that if the earplugs did not work, Susie would play piano on certain days of the week and limit the time. Joy agreed to study some days at the library. 
By Christine P. Martin
Source: House Mates: A Practical Guide to Living With Other People by Teona Tone and Deanna Sclar. Fawcett Columbine, 1985; Resolving Conflict: How to Turn Conflict Into Cooperation by Wendy Grant. Element, 1997; Resolving Conflict With Others and Within Yourself by Gini Graham Scott, PhD. New Harbinger Publications, 1990.

Summary

  • Set some ground rules before you move in together.
  • Be up front about your needs and expectations.
  • Calmly talk out conflicts.
  • Work out a solution.

Living with roommates can be a challenge. Despite intentions to always get along, roommate conflicts are inevitable. “She eats my food” and “He takes my parking space”—or bigger issues like “She never pays rent on time”—are common roommate complaints. Communication, however, is the key to avoiding and resolving such conflicts.

Establishing ground rules

Ideally, you and your roommate should set some ground rules before you move in together. Developing a mutual understanding on issues like paying the rent and bills, how to share the space, and division of household responsibilities can make living together more pleasant.

Being up front about your needs, lifestyle, and expectations also will help you to avoid conflict. For example, you might ask your roommates before you move in to keep the radio and TV volume down on Saturday mornings because you like to sleep late on weekends.

You may want to consider putting your ground rules in writing. Doing so clarifies expectations and serves as a permanent reminder of the rules that all roommates agreed to live by. Another idea is to periodically schedule a meeting among roommates, when you can revisit the ground rules and discuss ways to improve your living environment. Don’t complain and gripe; use this time to be constructive.

Resolving conflict

Still, conflicts will arise no matter how thorough your ground rules. For example, Susie and Joy have lived together for two years, but recent changes in Joy’s school schedule have created a new conflict. Susie practices piano in the evening, the only time she has available. Joy, however, now needs this time to study and is bothered by the noise. Susie got defensive when Joy asked her to limit her piano playing to certain nights of the week.

After Joy had a chance to cool off, they were able to work out their problem using these conflict resolution techniques:

  • Talk it out. Susie and Joy took turns listening to each other’s point of view, without interrupting, getting angry, or judging.
  • Don’t accuse or blame. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. “I am bothered by noise when I’m studying” expressed Joy; rather than “You are so inflexible.”
  • Put yourself in your roommate’s position. Susie understands how her piano playing bothers Joy. Joy understands that Susie has few alternatives other than to play in the evening after work.
  • Focus on the problem at hand. Susie and Joy avoided bringing up other grievances.
  • Avoid creating coalitions. Joy and Susie’s other roommate, Tina, is not affected by their conflict. Joy and Susie were wise to not ask Tina to take sides, which could have complicated the situation.
  • Work out a solution. Put things in perspective. Are you being unreasonable? Are there things you can do to solve the problem on your own? Susie suggested that Joy try earplugs, an option Joy hadn’t thought of. Both agreed that if the earplugs did not work, Susie would play piano on certain days of the week and limit the time. Joy agreed to study some days at the library. 
By Christine P. Martin
Source: House Mates: A Practical Guide to Living With Other People by Teona Tone and Deanna Sclar. Fawcett Columbine, 1985; Resolving Conflict: How to Turn Conflict Into Cooperation by Wendy Grant. Element, 1997; Resolving Conflict With Others and Within Yourself by Gini Graham Scott, PhD. New Harbinger Publications, 1990.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as behavioral health care or management advice. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have questions related to workplace issues, please consider contacting your human resources department. ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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