It is almost impossible to live in the same house as someone for a year and never have any conflict. Whether it’s chore charts, leaving the lights on, or forgetting to take the trash out, the possibilities are endless for new points of contention throughout the year. That being said, there’s probably a lease with you and your roommate's name saying that you agreed to this for an entire year. So what do you do? How do you express your frustration without making the situation worse?
As someone who has lived with and shared a bathroom with siblings (“roommates”) for years, I can agree that it’s not easy. Even with this experience under my belt, I’ve had to adjust to living with my college roommate this year, too. Even though I have experience living with many people, they’re all different in their quirks, temperament, and relationship to me. The one thing that they all have in common is that at one point or another,we’ve had to overcome conflict.
In my opinion, the best way to overcome issues with a roommate is by communication. After all, no one is a mind reader. If your roommate doesn’t even know that there is an issue, how can you expect them to help you solve it? The most important part of communicating is that you’re clear, honest, and kind. Even though you may want to throw a shoe at their head, it’s crucial that you keep your cool and treat them with the respect you hope they give you. Otherwise, the problem is likely to deteriorate quicker.
Being clear means that there’s no question that the two (or more) of you have a problem, and what the problem is. Knowing what the problem is is essential to solving it. You don’t want your roommate to misunderstand your issue, which is why honesty is also important. Do not lie about what’s bugging you. If you hold your frustrations in, you’re more likely to lash out and hurt the person you communicate with. Kindness is what helps resolve the conflict and heal the tension between you and your roommate. If you choose your words thoughtfully, it's more likely that your roommate will do the same. Being patient with your roommate may be hard, but it’ll help your roommate feel less like you’re trying to corner them.
Here are some of my best tips for properly managing the situation:
- If you’re non-confrontational, you can leave a sticky note in an obvious area or by where the issue occurs or in a common area. For example, leave one on the outside of their door, or in front of the sink that says, “Please put dishes in the sink!”
- Don’t try and talk to your roommate when they are busy or preoccupied. Ask: “Do you have a minute to talk?”
- Be open to compromise. If you don’t like that your roommate always hosts parties and keeps you up, ask if they can empty the common area by 11pm instead. If you hate your roommate’s significant other, ask them to give you a heads up when they plan to stop by so you can go for a run. If your roommate never cleans up, make a chore chart.
- Use words that are firm but gentle. For example, you can say, “It bothers me when...” or “I wish you would (insert action) instead of (other action). Can we work to resolve this?”
- If your roommate breaks the roommate agreement, you can kindly point out that they did so and remind them that this agreement helps keep the peace and outline what you both expected when you moved in together.
- If you feel that your roommate didn’t listen to you the first time you both talked, feel free to have multiple conversations about it. You can also try approaching the issue from a different angle or trying new solutions.
Remember that the end goal is to express your frustrations and solve the issue. At the end of the day, you both want a place to relax and call home. This will mean that you will probably have to compromise, even though you’re bringing up the issue. If you’re lucky like me, once you complete these steps, you and your roommate will be closer than ever.