Handle Roommate Conflicts in College

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Living with a roommate throughout your college years is a good learning experience and you might even develop a bond of friendship that lasts a lifetime. However, the reality is that conflicts will arise when you're sharing living quarters, especially if you're an only child, or you're not used to sharing your space with others. However; there are a lot of ways you can learn to deal with and prevent these conflicts by being respectful, making compromises and taking care of problems as soon as they occur so you can live together happily and enjoy your college years.

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How to Prevent Conflicts With Your Roommate

When you're living with a roommate, stressful situations are bound to occur that may result in arguments or bad feelings. There are many things you can do to deal with and limit those situations, so you can both live and study in peace.

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  1. 1
    Learn more about each other.
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    If you don't know much about each other's pet peeves, weird habits, favorite foods and extracurricular activities, it's time to find out. If you're living together, it's best to have an open and honest conversation, especially when it comes to things you're really picky about. Also, observe your roommate during interactions with you and other people to gauge his or her mannerisms and reactions. This can tell you a lot about a person.
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  2. 2
    Set boundaries.
    Work together to come up with some basic rules you'll both follow pertaining to important issues. In some cases, it's a good idea to write up a contract so you both have a clear representation of expected behavior and lines you don't cross. Some things you might list on the contract include using each other's personal property, letting people spend the night, sleep/study time, splitting up the chores and whether you'll each buy your own food or share the grocery bill.
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  3. 3
    Be respectful.
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    This is one of the biggest keys to preventing and dealing with conflict in any relationship. Even if you're extremely upset about something, always treat the other person with respect, and avoid blowing up on your roommate for eating your chips or leaving dirty dishes in the sink. If you know your roommate likes to go to bed early, avoid inviting friends over late at night and use headphones when listening to music or watching TV. Give your roommate personal space, and always treat him/her as you would like to be treated.
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  4. 4
    Learn to negotiate.
    Even if you've established some ground rules or boundaries about private property, food, visitors and other preferences, you will also need to learn to compromise. Unless you and your roommate totally mirror each other's lives, your personal schedules and activities are bound to conflict at least some of the time. Learn which things are deal-breakers and which things you can give up for the sake of the other person. If you find yourself complaining about every little thing your roommate does that annoys you, realize that you might need to loosen up and learn to respect each other's differences.
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  5. 5
    Develop better communication.
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    If your roommate is consistently doing things that bother you and you still haven't approached the subject, don't wait until you're so fed up that you blow up on him/her or have to move out. It's best to just bring up the subject over some coffee when you both have some spare time. Avoid name-calling or accusations, but let your roommate know how you feel when he/she does something that upsets you. Tell your roommate to let you know if you've done something that bothers him/her. It's best to openly, politely and honestly discuss problems so you can come up with an effective solution.
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  6. 6
    Hang out together.
    You don't have to become best friends, but it is nice to get closer to the person you'll be living with for the next year or so. Even if you're both really busy, take some time to just chit-chat, watch a movie, play a video game or eat a meal together at least once a week. You might learn a lot more about each other, which can help you see your "annoying" roommate in a whole new light.
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How to Handle Conflicts With a Roommate

If you've already done everything listed above to avoid conflict with your roommate and incidents still occur, there are several things you can do to calm down, resolve the issue and mend the relationship. In order to do this, you'll both have to take responsibility for your actions and address the situation as mature adults. Try these tips to tone down the conflict and restore a peaceful relationship with your roommate.

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  1. 1
    Wait until you're both calm and collected to discuss the situation.
    If you've just had a major argument or fight, take a walk to cool off, go visit a friend or family member or do something relaxing. If you try to talk about your problems while you're still very upset, it's likely that you'll say things in the heat of the moment that you'll regret. If you need to talk about what happened with someone else, try to talk to a family member or friend who isn't involved in your circle of friends, so anything you say won't get back to roommate and further instigate the issue.
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  2. 2
    Recognize the issue.
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    If you're roommate is avoiding you, getting annoyed at little things you say and do, or talks negatively about you behind your back, he or she is obviously upset about something. Assess what the real issue could be. Take a critical look at your actions or behavior to determine if anything you've done could have LED to this conflict. Backtrack any miscommunication and analyze why you were offended, or vice versa.
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  3. 3
    Address the issue.
    Once you've determined what started the conflict, you can discuss the issue. Calmly approach your roommate in private, and ask him/her to have a talk with you when they're free. Be polite but direct, and let your roommate know which of their behaviors upset you. Make sure you give your roommate a chance to speak, and listen to what he or she has to say. If you've done something to upset your roommate, don't make excuses or act overly defensive. Stay calm and be willing to apologize, forgive or make compromises. Try to come up with a solution that works for both of you. If someone has broken the rules that you set together, revise the contract if necessary, to avoid further conflict.
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  4. 4
    Consider mediation.
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    In a worst case scenario, you might not be able to have a mature, productive discussion with your roommate. This is when it's best to seek help from a professional. Many colleges have resident assistants or advisors that can help mediate conflicts between roommates. RAs are trained to handle conflicts and give helpful advice in the event that someone feels very uncomfortable or is unwilling to have a peaceful discussion.
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Tips, Tricks & Warnings

  • Avoid gossiping about your roommate to friends. This goes especially for friends that go to the same college. These types of things often end up getting back to the person one way or another. If you absolutely must share the details, do it with your own personal friends or family members when you're sure there's no way he or she will hear about it later.
  • If your roommate eats your food and you haven't agreed to share it, you should both start labeling what you buy. If the roommate continues to eat your food despite the agreement, contact your resident advisor or assistant.
  • If your roommate won't clean up his or her messes and it's getting to be too much to handle, have a talk about the problem and set a routine cleaning date that you both agree upon. In many cases, it works best to share cleaning duties in common areas, while bedrooms and private space is dictated by personal preference.

Can I Choose My Roommate?

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Traditionally, schools pair their freshman with roommates based on a questionnaire they fill out after being admitted to a university. Students are asked about their sleeping style, cleanliness, studying and other habits, and their extra curricular activities. School "matchmakers" pair roommates based on this information and hope for the best.

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These days, many universities and colleges pair students via social networking sites like RoomSurf and RoomSync. These sites work similarly to dating sites, where students enter a variety of lifestyle information and are given a list of compatible matches. The students can choose their own roommates based on the information given. This method became a trend because there's a growing number of students who request room reassignment over the years--usually because of roommate conflict.

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Regardless of whether or not you can choose your own roommate, it's best to contact each other once you find out who your roommate will be. This helps to break the ice, and you can decide who will bring certain appliances such as a TV or coffeemaker. Add each other on social networking sites so you can find out if you have any common interests or mutual friends. It's also a good idea to meet up in person so you can learn more about the person's true personality, habits and preferences.

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Questions and Answers

What should I do when I have an unexpected dilemma with a roommate?

This just happened recently when I wanted to return his mouse that I borrowed, but at the time I didn't know what he was doing. Our room is designed with a partition-like structure, so we don't exactly have doors for full privacy. We have a closet to partially disclose our partition for privacy. When I was knocking on his closet to let him know that I wanted to return his mouse, he immediately shouted at me and used a lot of unethical words toward me. I tried to apologize for making him angry, but for some reason, he kept saying mean things to me.

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Invite your roommate to have a talk when he has some free time, and ask him if you did something to make him angry. It's possible that you just caught him at a bad time. If he's willing to talk to you calmly and politely, listen to what he has to say. If you've done something that bothers him, apologize and consider changing your behavior for both of your benefits. If he's being extremely rude or unreasonable, contact your resident advisor or assistant to help you deal with this matter.

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Categories : Communications & Education

Recent edits by: Shelley, Eng, lee anderson

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