Resolving Conflict

Heavenly tips for dealing with the roommate from hell

You won’t always get along with your roommate. There will be things about him or her that you just can’t stand. At some point, conflict will arise. How you resolve the conflict can be significant in determining the future of your relationship.

Before you decide to bring up a contentious issue with your roommate, make sure it’s worth it. You don’t want to keep things bottled up, but you also don’t want to complain abut every little thing. You also have to make sure that you don’t hurt his or her feelings over something insignificant. When you do bring up the issue, try to be as calm and polite as possible. Going in with a combative attitude will only exacerbate the problem. Finally, discuss the issue at a time when you’re both able to focus on finding a solution (in other words, don’t interrupt your roommate when he or she is cramming for an exam).

Instead of making accusations and placing blame, use “I” statements to talk about how your roommate’s actions (or lack thereof) make you feel. Go in with the attitude that a win-win compromise can be achieved.

The Real Causes of Conflict

Let’s be honest: you really don’t care that your roommate ate your last cupcake. Yet you find yourself screaming insults at him. That’s not a rational behavior. There must be a deep-seeded issue at play. You’re upset about something else and you’re using the cupcake as a reason to unleash your rage. If we look under the surface, we see that the most common causes of conflict aren’t desserts, they are:

  • Different values. This covers a lot of things, including everything from personal beliefs (e.g. that school is more important than video games) to personal preferences (e.g. that the apartment is too hot and the window should be opened).
  • Competition. There are often limited resources in a shared apartment or dorm room (e.g. food in the fridge or time on the telephone), and competition for these resources can cause conflict.
  • Inequality. This is closely related to competition. When one roommate feels that he or she is carrying an unequal load (e.g. doing all the chores), it can lead to tension.
  • Misunderstandings. Many conflicts arise out of a simple mistake (e.g. accidentally spilling beer on your roommate’s lecture notes).
  • Stress. College is very stressful, and it can fry a student’s nerves to the point that even the tiniest of problems will cause him or her to snap.

If you understand what is causing conflict, you can learn to avoid getting into fights over petty issues.

Help! I Hate My Roommate!

So you and your roommate aren’t getting along. In fact, you despise each other. The first thing you need to consider is how long you’ve been together. If it’s only been a few days, you need to give it some more time. In fact, if it has been less than a month, you need to give it some more time. You can’t expect to have adjusted to each other and worked out all the kinks in only a few days or even a few weeks.

Before you give up on things entirely, you need to make a strong effort to work things out. Open the lines of communication. There’s a good chance that your roommate doesn’t know that he or she is upsetting you. Explain what things you feel need to change and how you think it can be done in a way that leaves both sides feeling satisfied.

If you simply can’t work things out, you must terminate the relationship. You should only take this step as a last resort. If you live in a dorm room, go to your R.A. and explain your problem. You can ask to be moved to another room, provided your college has space available for you. If you live in an off-campus apartment and have signed a lease, things will be trickier. You will need to work out an agreement with your roommate regarding who will be responsible for rent, etc. if one of you moves out.

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