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You may not get along with your roommate for all kinds of reasons. Maybe they’re not contributing to household chores, or maybe your personalities don’t mesh as well as you initially hoped. No matter your specific circumstances, we have some tips for tackling conflict with your roommate.

Communicate

Your roommate can’t read your mind, so if there’s something you need to address, just tell them (NOT with sticky notes!). The sooner you tell them something is wrong, the better! When you let bad feelings fester, they will only amplify the moments when your roommate does something else to bother you. Confrontation can be scary, but learning how to advocate for yourself and express negative feelings will be a skill you’ll carry with you into all your relationships. Realize that being passive aggressive or avoiding difficult conversations is not fair to you or your roommate (who may have no idea that they’re upsetting you). Be prepared to adjust your expectations and compromise.

Choose empathy

We established that confronting your roommate is crucial. Know that THE WAY you confront your roommate is equally important. Try to approach the conversation with sensitivity. If you come at your roommate spitting fire, they are going to feel threatened and defensive. This will only hinder you from making any sort of progress on the issue at hand. Try starting the conversation by saying you value your roommate and their feelings; make it clear that you just want to make your living space a better and happier place for everyone. Even if your roommate has been unkind to you, that doesn’t mean you have to return the favor. Remember that you can’t change the way people treat you, but you can change your reaction.

Talk about it in person

Overall, interacting over text message is not going to help you work things out, especially if things get heated. People are more likely to be hurtful over a screen because they don’t actually see the consequences of their words registering on the other person’s face. To ensure a cordial meeting, talk it out with your roommate in person. Be sure to find a time that works for both of you; do not try to hash it out while your roommate is rushing out the door to go take an exam. If you’re afraid that you won’t remember all the things you want to say, write it down. Focus on solutions and even consider using your time together to come up with a roommate contract. 

Do a little bit of reflecting

Create a journal entry and answer the following question: What exactly is bothering me? Sometimes the things that irritate us are common sense. If your roommate is eating all your food without asking, that would exasperate anyone. It’s also something that can be solved with a quick conversation about boundaries surrounding food.

Other times, we have trouble articulating why something annoys us and we just attribute it to another person’s character. Believe it or not, this may be more of a “you” problem than a “them” problem. If the action of your roommate isn’t objectively offensive, the problem at hand may have more to do with projection. As the imperfect humans we are, we project our problems onto other people. Get to know yourself, learn what aggravates you, and WHY it aggravates you. This way, you will be able to understand which problems can be worked out with your roommate, and which ones you need to work out within yourself.

Now you are prepared to solve any roommate problem thrown your way!