In movies and television, we see complete strangers thrown together in a dorm room and become best friends seemingly overnight. Unfortunately, real life is often much less idyllic, and we don’t always get along with our roommates as easily as we’d like. Disagreements among roommates is an issue that so many college students deal with every year, and it’s not often easily resolved – but that doesn’t mean you should just give up and live in misery. There are several different tactics you can try, and we’ve compiled a list of some of the best approaches to finding solutions for issues with your roommate.
Consider your role in the controversy.
Introspection is never easy, but if you’re going to have a positive relationship with your roommates, you need to recognize both your strengths and shortcomings as a roommate. Ask yourself: Is there anything you are doing to upset your roommates, such as not completing daily chores assigned to you, or not being respectful in your interactions with them? Have you actually spoken directly with your roommates about your concerns regarding the relationship, or have you just been sending them passive aggressive messages that only add to the problem?
If you’re able to recognize and implement changes you can make to become a better roommate, you will be able to improve your relationship with everyone you live with. “You can’t control how other people live, but you can control your own actions and how you react to people who live differently than you,” says Kelsey Drain, a UC Davis alumni. Recognizing how your reactions influence your interactions with your roommates will help you become more aware of your role in the relationship and your ability to make changes.
Try to address the problem directly.
It can be difficult and uncomfortable to confront someone outright when you have a problem, but it’s the most direct way to a solution. Hashing things out with your roommates in an open, honest conversation will help you get to the bottom of the issue and find a solution that you can all agree on.
One of the best ways to start this conversation is by using “I” statements: “ I feel ___ when you ___ because ___.” These are simple statements that allow you to express your feelings and directly state the issue without attacking or blaming anyone. You might consider practicing these statements with a friend or RA who can help you learn to deliver these statements respectfully and firmly. Always finish these statements with, “I would like ___,” and offer a potential solution to the problem.
There is no guarantee that your roommate will like what you have to say, or the solution you’ve offered, but this attempt is often more successful than leaving passive aggressive notes on their door.
Set boundaries early.
Often, one of the biggest challenges we face with roommates is lack of respect for boundaries. Outlining boundaries can seem like an intimidating challenge, especially with new roommates, but it will help you avoid fights later on. Setting down rules can help all of you understand and value each other’s needs and limits, and if you outline and agree on rules early on, it will be much easier to settle disagreements later on, especially if you have them written out in some kind of document.
You aren’t going to like all of the boundaries that everyone suggests, and may find it hard to express these feelings, but in the long run it is best for you are open about your concerns. “If everyone just communicates with one another, compromise can begin,” says Emma Garza, a second year at Texas A&M. Being open with each other about your individual needs for space and respect in your home will help you better navigate your relationships with each other and make your home a more welcoming space for everyone.
Seek outside help if necessary.
One of the best things you can do is ask for help when the situation becomes out of control. An RA can help mediate a discussion between you and your roommates if you aren’t able to resolve the issue on your own. Before taking on their position, most RA’s are trained to respond to these situations and learn how to act as an objective, neutral intermediary who can help everyone see the other side of the issue and meet in the middle.
If you do not feel like your RA is the best option, consider asking a friend, counselor, or other college faculty or staff member to help intercede instead. When choosing a mediator for the situation, make sure that it is someone both you and your roommates trust and with whom you can have an open, honest conversation about your concerns. This person can act as a sounding board for each party and help you find ways to respectfully express your feelings towards each other so that you can begin working towards a solution. If you and your roommates are finding it truly difficult to have conversations without them quickly escalating into heated arguments, consider bringing in a third party to help negotiate peace between everyone.
Accept that you just need to coexist.
Celeste Roberts, a third year student and RA at Cal Poly SLO, shared, “I recommended to some of my residents that they don’t need to be best friends. They can remain civil and live in peace.” It is always great to have roommates who become friends – they can become part of your support system, help make your home seem more warm and hospitable, and make you feel more connected to your campus community. However, there are some people who are simply not interested in forming friendships with their roommates. This can hurt, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn to get along well enough to make it through the year without any major blow ups.
If you’re looking to connect with people in your living space, consider making friends with students who live in your hall, or ask your RA about social events being hosted on campus. This is a great way to meet other students who live on campus, and may even help you find your future roommates!
Fights between roommates are never easy to resolve, but if you invest yourself in developing a healthy relationship you’re almost guaranteed to see improvements in your home. It’s great to be friends with your roommate, but they may not have any interest in having anything beyond a basic relationship with the people they live with. It can be hard to accept this, but sometimes the best thing to do is give them space. In time, they may come to appreciate your respect for their boundaries and warm up to you. Even if they don’t, it will be a great learning experience for everyone involved – chances are this isn’t the last time you will have to share a living space with other people, so learning to compromise and peacefully coexist now will help you be a better roommate later on in life!