When two different people with unique backgrounds and personalities live in the same room or rent an apartment together, it’s not surprising that conflicts can arise. How those conflicts are dealt with determines how successful that roommate or housemate relationship will be. Being able to handle conflicts well will also determine how much you enjoy your living experience together.
To help you make your living situation the best that it can be, here are some tips on how to avoid and deal with roommate conflict.
Lay Down the House Rules from the Start
As always, the best way to deal with conflict is to take active steps forward to eliminate possible conflict opportunities to begin with. From the start, sit down with your roommate and set the tone of your room or household. Here are some issues you’ll want to set rules and boundaries for to keep things going smoothly:
- Set up a system for splitting and paying the bills so that they get paid on time each month, and each person is paying their fair share.
- Study time: what times of the day do you or your roommate like to set aside for studying? Make agreements to respect each other’s study time.
- What time do you or your roommate like to go to bed? Negotiate quiet/sleep hours.
- Talk about how you will handle having visitors, including boyfriends or girlfriends. Go over whether or not you will have parties, and if so, how those should be done with respect for each other.
- If you are using the same TV, talk about the shows you like to watch and negotiate watch times if needed.
- Set cleaning expectations up front. This is going to make things far easier than having to confront a roommate later for being a slob.
- Talk about decorating preferences.
- Make clear space boundaries…this will help so that things don’t end up spilling over into the other person’s space.
Naturally, communication is going to make it into our list of tips, and it is the most effective way to handle conflicts. They cannot be resolved without it. And, in many cases, it’s because of lack of communication that they may rise in the first place. Remember that this does not mean yelling at the other person for leaving their clothes on the floor. Nor does it mean one person is doing all the talking and the other can’t get a word in edgewise. Communication that will effectively resolve roommate conflict is respectful to the other person and is attentive and listens.
Communication at the Start
From the beginning, after setting clear house rules, it’s a great idea to talk about other smaller issues so that you can respect each other. Here are a few things you might discuss over a cup of coffee:
- Are you a morning or night person? The last thing you want to do is annoy your roommate with chatter in the morning when they’re already struggling to have happy attitudes in the mornings.
- What are your pet peeves? Openly discussing these in a gracious way will help eliminate some frustrations if you are careful to respect each other.
- Talk about other habits that will affect your living situation.
Communication When Issues Arise
When conflicts or frustrations do arise, it is not helpful to run to someone else and complain about it. This only puts more strain on your relationship with your roommate. In many cases, the other person may not even be aware that they are causing frustration for you. Neither is it helpful just to let those things build up inside of you without addressing them.
Set a time to talk with them before you bring it to someone else. Purpose to be kind and respectful while honestly sharing your concerns. Be ready to listen to what they have to say. If possible, offer helpful solutions to the issue that is causing frustration. If needed, appeal to your established household rules.
And while you’re there, ask if there is anything you are doing that is making things challenging for your roommate and be willing to talk those through. To make this work well, you both need to do your part to make sure you are honoring the other person.
Ongoing Communication Even When Things Go Well
This is a great way to continually make sure that everyone involved is enjoying their living situation. Have consistent times (maybe once a month, or more if needed) where you sit down and review agreements. It may even just take a few minutes to discuss any concerns or suggest areas where compromise is needed. Just keep that communication open all the time!
Bonus Tip: If you need to confront your roommate, choose a time when you are not feeling frustrated, tired, or overwhelmed by other things going on in your life. This will help keep things from blowing out of proportion. Also, it’s easy sometimes to take out our frustrations on others when we’re stressed. Don’t let that instigate conflict with your roommate.
Know How to Choose Your Battles Wisely
While communication is key, some may take this to a level where every tiny thing is brought up. Nitpicking is bound to raise conflict. Obviously, there are bigger things that need to be discussed, but it only hurts your relationship when you get worked up over every detail. When you can think clearly, sit down and write out any concerns. Then decide which ones are worth mentioning. Remember to be patient with the other person, knowing you also may be doing small things that push their buttons.
Clean Up After Yourself
One of the best ways you can bless your roommate and ensure that you are not the cause of conflict is to keep your space clean. Especially if you share a bedroom, this is vitally important. Make your bed, put your things away, wash dishes immediately, don’t leave food sitting out, take out your trash, etc. You get the idea.
Make a Cleaning List
Sometimes conflicts arise because one person feels like they’re doing all the cleaning, or like they’re always cleaning up after the other person. Work to avoid this by creating a thorough chore list. Designate chores to each person or set up a schedule where you take turns.
Split the Cost of Cleaning Supplies
As with cleaning, one person may feel like they are always the ones buying the cleaning supplies or toilet paper. Work it out in a way so that you are taking turns and splitting the costs fairly.
Come Up with Organization Solutions
If you or your roommate struggle to keep a space tidy, it may be helpful to look into organization hacks that will help make cleanup less overwhelming. Maybe the curling wand and other hair tools don’t get put away because they don’t have a designated spot. Maybe you could avoid the pile of clothes on the bathroom floor if there was a hamper right in the bathroom. Taking a few steps to make organization possible may help resolve the issue.
Whether you’re playing music during your workout, watching a video on your computer, or need background music while you study, headphones may be a helpful way to avoid annoying the other person. When you play music without headphones, check with the other person first to make sure it’s okay. You may have the same taste in music and might not need to use your headphones all the time.
Try not to Split Major Purchases
Splitting the cost on big purchases certainly helps when you’re on a budget. However, conflicts can sometimes arise when people do this. That may just happen at the end when you’re deciding who gets to keep what, but it can happen before that too, especially if one person feels like they’re not getting their share from the purchase. If you do decide to split the cost of a big purchase, decide beforehand how you will handle it when you part ways.
Bonus Tip: If you own bigger pieces of furniture, appliances, etc. that you both use, it may be helpful to communicate reasonable guidelines for how they’re used.
Do Not Borrow Your Roommate’s Things When They’re Gone
This should be a given, but it doesn’t hurt to mention it. If you need to borrow something, try to keep that only in the times when you are there together. Never use something your roommate owns without permission unless you’ve have established beforehand that it’s okay.
Hopefully, these tips will help you and your roommate avoid as much conflict as possible and deal with it effectively when it comes. Remember, communication and the golden rule will take you a long way in enjoying living with a roommate.