Ten Steps

  1. Everyone involved in the conflict should get together at one time.
  2. Each person involved should agree to be up-front and honest with their feelings on the matter(s) at hand.
  3. Each roommate should take a turn describing their perception of the situation, how they feel about it, and what they want.
  4. Use “I” statements. The word “I” in a statement lets you take ownership of your feelings. It removes the blaming tone and will probably decrease your roommate’s defensiveness.
  5. Everyone should agree to compromise and help develop a solution. The alternative is continued tension and escalation of the original issue.
  6. Describe a situation that would be an acceptable solution to everyone. If you cannot agree among yourselves, bring in a third party (such as your RA) to mediate.
  7. Talk about what changes will be needed to resolve the problem.
  8. Make a plan of action and set a time frame for these changes to occur.
  9. Everyone should be committed to the plan, and make necessary personal changes.
  10. If necessary, set a future date to evaluate and re-negotiate.

Constructive Conversations

  • Start right. Set a time to discuss the conflict, which is convenient to everyone involved. Avoid bringing it up when someone involved is not there. A good approach would be, “Could we talk about what is going on? When would be a good time for us to work things out?”
  • Remember that everyone involved is equal and has equal rights to be heard. Create this sense by sitting on the floor or at the table where each person is at the same level.
  • Set aside your desire to “win.” Winning an argument is not the same as succeeding in conflict management, where you and your roommate(s) win over the situation.
  • All roommates should be able to talk freely about how they feel without being uncomfortable. Make sure that each person’s ideas and feelings are being heard and are clear to everyone involved. Be willing to share your feelings honestly and don’t expect others to know how you feel about something without your explanation.
  • Avoid blaming each other. Whose fault it was is irrelevant when everyone agrees to work toward a solution.
  • Be task oriented in sticking to the topic. Avoid digressing into other non-related grievances or incidents.
  • Avoid generalizations or blanket remarks. Avoid comments like, “You NEVER take out the trash.” A more constructive approach would be, “I felt like you didn’t do your share of taking out the trash this week.” This statement specifies a time frame, as well as articulates how you feel about the situation.
  • Talk about actions that can be changed, rather than personalities. “Please do not leave your books on the refrigerator,” can lead to a change of habit, while “You’re a lazy slob,” will only lead to defensiveness and hostility. Personal attacks destroy communication of productive ideas and solutions.
  • Don’t team up with another person against your roommate(s). This creates defensiveness. You should all be working together for a solution.
  • Don’t psychoanalyze your roommate(s). Avoid, “Maybe you don’t realize this about yourself, but…” Most people don’t like the feeling of being analyzed or critically examined by another person, especially in a conflict situation. Instead, take responsibility for your own feelings: “What you’re doing makes me feel…”
  • You don’t have to let a confrontation go from bad to worse. Take responsibility for keeping the tone of the discussion calm through your own example.

If the Arrangement Doesn’t Work

If you and your roommate(s) have made an honest but unsuccessful effort to work out your problems, you may need to realize that you cannot live together. It may be better to part ways than to continue in an uncomfortable situation. Before you come to this conclusion, you may want to consider outside help. If you and your roommate(s) have tried to work out your conflicts among yourselves, but were not able to accomplish any resolution, a third party may be able to assist. Remember that the Residence Life staff is available to assist you. Visit the Room Changes page for more information.