Whether you are starting college or needing a hand with rent, you will most likely spend a part of your life with a roommate. It’s inevitable, especially for a college student with a small amount of income. With a roommate, there will come a time where your personalities or lifestyles clash, unless you are lucky enough to room with a close friend that you get along with great. But in college, you will probably be rooming with strangers at some point. I live with five other girls that I just met at the beginning of the semester, so I would say I have ample experience with roommates. Though they are all amazing women, there are still many lifestyle differences between us, and we have had to navigate through those differences together. In doing so, I learned some great methods and ways of tackling conflict that I think everyone who has one or more roommates should know.
Before I get into the conflicts, there is something every roommate should know: the best attributes to have as a functioning roommate are respect, humility, patience, and understanding. My first tip is to always remember these traits when dealing with any roommate conflict. It is key to respect their opinions and feelings, to be humble when you approach them, to have patience with the situation, and to always have understanding for anything that happens, even if they don’t express these same decencies towards you. Also know that you can never control others, so don’t go into any confrontation with that idea in your mind. Many things in your life are out of your control, and one of those things is your roommate.
Now, onto the conflicts. In my experience there seem to be two types of conflict: lifestyle and personality. Lifestyle conflict involves things like cleanliness, routines, and activities. Personality is more vague, but it has to do with conversation, attitudes, and actions towards each other. I’ll get into personality a bit later, because of its more sensitive content. If you have a lifestyle conflict, you’re in luck, because it is probably the easiest to solve. It all starts with simple communication.
If something is bothering you, like the dishes, the dirty counters, or the mess left in the bathroom, do not get worked up. Be patient and humble. You have probably done that same thing sometime in your life; just imagine how your parents felt when you wouldn’t do your dishes at home. If you are feeling especially understanding, you could consider cleaning up the dishes or mess—even if it wasn’t yours. Now you need to make sure you communicate with your roommate and do not make a big deal about it by letting it simmer under the surface which can cause resentment. When you talk to your roommate, try to do it in person so that you can be upfront and open. Do not leave a note. Notes can be ignored or interpreted in the wrong way. If you can’t find the time to talk face to face, send them a text, and let them know about the problem. Be understanding, maybe they didn’t have the time or just forgot about it. Be respectful and don’t make it personal. Let them know why it is a problem, and you can even tell them that you took care of it, but it isn’t something that you always want to do. Hopefully, they take it the right way and are understanding (which they usually always are). Make sure to thank them if you see them cleaning or doing something that benefits not only them but the whole household.
Personality conflicts are a bit more complicated. Not everyone clicks with each other, which is only natural. Not clicking with your roommate is totally fine! It doesn’t exempt you from being a decent person. This is important: you and your roommate do not need to be best friends. All you need is a cordial and respectful relationship to have a healthy home environment. Be able to ask them genuinely about their day, and that is all you need for a functioning roommate relationship.
If there is a personal conflict, try your best to approach it with those four traits in mind. Being respectful, humble, patient, and understanding should help lead to forgiveness and saving the roommate relationship. Be a peacekeeper, not an instigator, and be okay with admitting when you are wrong, and when you should apologize. But because you can only have control over yourself, your roommate may not see the conflict the same way. They may still pursue the dispute, which will only lead to a horrible home environment and an unhealthy relationship. In my experience, you have two options: eat your pride and concede to whatever they need to get over the problem, or call it quits. This is where you need to know what is healthiest for you personally. It can be incredibly damaging to you to have to keep on conceding even if you aren’t in the wrong. Perhaps if you concede just once to get over a problem, it will be okay after that. But, if you find yourself having to always eat your pride, then I think you should consider getting out of that roommate relationship. Know when to call it quits on the arrangement. Is it affecting your mental health? Is it ruining your home life? Has the relationship become intolerable? If yes, you need to call it quits.
In the end, always approach conflicts with respect, humbleness, patience, and understanding, and this should help you and your roommates reach common ground and smooth over any problems that arise. But always do what is best for your wellness, and even consider the roommate’s wellness too. Things are never perfect, and knowing that is always the first step to being a good roommate.