Avoiding and Resolving Roommate Conflicts

Some of us are lucky in that we really luck out with roommates. Some of us are lucky in that we get such terrible roommates that we have fantastic stories for the rest of our lives. Moving in with strangers (or almost strangers) is one of the quintessential “college life” experiences, so how can you make sure it doesn’t end in flames?

The first step is picking the right roommies to begin with. Yes, you want a certain apartment or dorm, and you might get placed with strangers. My first semester in college, I found my dorm’s Facebook page and was able to not only meet new people before even arriving, but I was able to find a few people I really got along with. We asked the RA to place us 4 together instead of chancing it with random assignments. The RA was more than happy to oblige and voila!

If you’re not quite sure what kind of person to get for a roommate, some great advice is to pick someone you would want to study with, not someone you would want to party with. I had a roommate that I met at a party once. We got along instantly and had tons of fun! This particular person was very outgoing. I did not realize that is how she is 100% of the time. It was soon too much to handle, and conflict ensued. We would’ve been great friends if we hadn’t tried to live together.

Next is to establish responsibilities and communication pathways as soon as you can. Figure out if everyone does their own dishes after using them, or if every other day someone is on dish-duty. Make a chore chart, make a calendar, make a “house rules” list. Establishing the ability and openness to communicate with your roommies early on will let them know that if they have a problem they can talk to you. Just make sure everyone is involved, gets an equal voice, and is happy with the decisions.

With that said, you have to realize that you’re just a bunch of people sharing a place of residency. You’re not a family. There is no one person in charge. You don’t have to be best friends. You pay the same (probably) that they do. That is literally the reason behind why people have roommates, so you pay less for housing than you would alone. Any “house rules” you make should only be about cleanliness or what time headphones are used instead of speakers. Don’t guilt trip the roommies that don’t want to go on your planned picnics or tailgating parties. Attempting to place restrictions that aren’t already outlined in housing contracts is a recipe for disaster and sure to alienate at least one roommate.

The biggest thing when it comes to getting along with anyone, especially those you live with, is to be respectful of the things you would want respected (privacy, finances, personal bubble, etc.) and to compromise. When you have any feelings that might turn into a conflict, pull the roommate aside and respectfully bring it up. People tend to respond with the attitude with which they were approached with. That means be nice, and they should be nice.

Most of all, don’t talk badly about a roommate to another roommate. To your mom, maybe. If you have a problem, talk to the person directly.

Of course, if it gets really bad or negative, or is fairly serious, get the landlord/RA involved after attempting to address the problem yourself. You can always move out and try again.

How life is where you live affects how life is during your whole day. As such, roommates can make or break a semester. Share these tips with others and spread the word!

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