By: Shayne Pasol, Clinical Intern
Living with roommates isn’t always easy. Sharing a living space can be stressful, and conflicts may arise. Sometimes situations that work at the beginning of the year become more difficult as the year goes on; remember that you and your roommate will be constantly growing and changing in your time at Columbia. It is normal to have roommate conflicts. In fact, there is a great deal to be learned from handling a difficult situation maturely, respectfully, and creatively. The following are tips on how to address an issue, promote healthy ways of communication, and to help foster a comfortable living environment for you and your roommates:
Approaching your Roommate
Communication sometimes breaks down and you may have to confront your roommate with an issue that one of you has with the other. If this happens, here are helpful ideas how you are going to go about it:
- Discuss the issue with your roommate in private.
- Confirm that this is a good time for both of you to talk. If one of you feels rushed or blindsided you will be less able to communicate effectively.
- Be direct. Discuss the issue with regard to behaviors rather than personality traits. This tactic is less likely to put your roommate on the defensive.
- Be patient. Listen to your roommate and remember that there are two sides to every story.
- Each person should be given a chance to present what they feel the problem really is.
- Revisit your Roommate Agreement established at move-in. Which of your guidelines are working and which of them need to be reconsidered?
- Remember that a solution will probably involve each person giving something and getting something. The solution may not be your ideal scenario, but it should be an improvement on the current state of things.
Communicating with your Roommates
- Talk to your roommate directly when something is bothering you. Don’t discuss it behind their back because this can cause a breakdown in trust between you.
- Be direct. Be clear about what is bothering you. If you don’t tell your roommate that there is a problem they won’t be able to do anything about it.
- Remember that communication works two ways: talking and listening. Neither one is effective without the other.
- If you create a win-win situation, then the conflict is more likely to be resolved. Evaluate the needs of both sides before a solution is proposed, and make sure the solution is acceptable to both parties.
- Respect each other’s differences. Everyone has different values, lifestyles, expectations, and communication styles. Get to know each other and establish common ground. It is easier to solve a problem with a friend than a stranger.
In difficult discussions, it may be helpful to have an unbiased third party to help mediate. When found in this situation, seek assistance from your Resident Advisor (RA) who can help provide guidance or help with mediating.
Student Life Handbook: Roommate Conflicts, Page 4 – Columbia College Chicago
Roommate Conflicts: Confrontation, Communication, and Mediation – Sarah Lawrence College
Roommate Issues – Ball State University