Real Estate Tips |9 min read

10 Roommate Conflict Management Skills You Should Know

Roommate conflict management is challenging for everyone. It’s stressful to argue with the person you live with. After all, you can’t exactly avoid them if things go south. You’re stuck, at least for a while. But there are ways to make the ordeal less difficult. Below, you’ll learn how you can stop roommate drama disasters in their tracks.

Table of Contents

  1. The 3 Most Common Roommate Issues
  2. Why You Should (Nicely!) Bring Up Your Grievances
  3. 10 Roommate Conflict Management Skills You Should Know

The 3 Most Common Roommate Issues

As property managers in North Virginia, we’ve seen it all. What we’ve observed the most is that, as cliché as it sounds, poor communication and conflict-resolution skills often make small issues spiral out of control. We have seen the same three problems in roommate conflict management repeat themselves, over and over. Oftentimes, roommates argue about how they will share spaces. Keep your eyes out for these issues.

  • The Kitchen: Many times, a roommate will improperly handle the dishes or appliance cleaning. For instance, you could come home to a sink full of dishes and a fridge holding month-old, moldy leftovers. That’s why it’s a crucial conflict resolution skill to discuss beforehand who will handle different cleanup duties and by what timeframe. In addition, you should be ready for when someone inevitably takes another person’s food.
  • The Bathroom: It will cause friction if you or your roommate occupy it for too long, don’t replace its supplies, or clean it adequately. Due to that, each of you should commit to a schedule for addressing these issues. For instance, you won’t want to discover there’s no toilet paper when you wake up with a Sunday hangover.
  • The Significant Others: When you have your own place, you might want to invite your partner to stay at your place more often. However, if you or your roommate keeps them around a little too often, the others may feel an invasion of privacy. In fact, it could practically seem like the partner is outright living with you. This could make some people feel like they’re tiptoeing around their own homes. Even if all roommates in one place are currently single, it’s still a good conflict management skill to address this potential problem. Also, one recommended rule of thumb could be that partners are allowed to stay two nights a week.

Why You Should (Nicely!) Bring Up Your Grievances

If you’ve seen Seinfeld, you might remember how its characters performed a yearly airing of grievances. While you shouldn’t tell your roommate all the ways they have ever disappointed you before brawling it out in feats of strength, you have every right to express your discomfort healthily. You deserve to protect yourself and feel emotionally safe.

People may not be aware of their hurtful impact, let alone be able to change it, if you don’t bring it to their attention in the first place. That’s why you should develop roommate conflict resolution skills to work through your issues constructively. Not only will this help your relationship with your roommate, but it’s a critical skill to know for the long-term future.

It’s not just you. That’s right, no matter who you are, it’s downright awkward to directly tell a roommate their behavior is wrong. The tension can feel suffocating.

However, if you don’t get to the root of the problem, it will fester and inevitably explode. By that point, people will more likely interpret your complaints as problems with their personality or self, rather than a simple behavior they can change.

10 Roommate Conflict Management Skills You Should Know

It’s the best conflict management solution for everyone to just nip problems in the bud before they get out of control. There are a few ways you can go about this. Here are some examples.

  1. Lay Out Ground Rules from the Start
  2. Use Friendly Language
  3. Assume Good Intentions
  4. Have Your Talk with Your Roommate in Private
  5. Check-In In Person
  6. Check in at Scheduled Times and Places
  7. Make Sure You’re on the Same Page
  8. Intentions Don’t Equal Impact
  9. Know When to Take a Time Out
  10. At Worst, Accept Your and Your Roommate’s Differences

Lay Out Ground Rules from the Start

Every roommate brings to the table vastly varied backgrounds, needs, and wants. No two people immediately start on the same page. So, you can prevent conflicts by simply communicating your mutual expectations for the future. You should be upfront about matters like chore division, bedtimes, finances, room usage, and other everyday activities.

Verbal conversations can be helpful to set the record straight, but having these rules written down can give you both tangible reminders of what you’ve both agreed to.

Use Friendly Language

Little alterations like using “I” statements can go a long way for conflict management. For instance, when you say “It’s hard for me to schedule the laundry when you use the washer and dryer every Saturday. Could you use them another day?” will sound very different than “You keep hogging the washer and dryer every Sunday, and it’s annoying everyone else. Can you stop?”

Assume Good Intentions

Most people do not want to come across as annoying or insensitive. They simply don’t know any better and would change their behavior accordingly if they did. So, a good conflict resolution skill would be to give people the benefit of the doubt. After all, you probably would want people to treat you the same way.

Have Your Talk with Your Roommate in Private

It would be unfair to embarrass your roommate in public, and it would also drag others into your drama. Be sure to talk in a quiet, private space when you all are in the right state of mind for this conversation.

Check-In in Person

It can feel easiest to just chat through text, social media, or sticky notes on the fridge, but short messages like this can breed miscommunication and frustration. To cut the likelihood of these issues, you should just work it out in person, prepared with what you want to say ahead of time.

Check in at Scheduled Times and Places

You can squash issues and foster a sense of teamwork if you routinely meet to address each other’s needs. Think of it as a State of the Union for roommate conflict management.

Make Sure You’re on the Same Page

When conversing with your roommate, actively listen and ask follow-up questions so you know you’re reading what they’re conveying correctly. Try not to think up your response to their words while they’re talking. Instead, focus your conflict resolution skills on the feelings, problems, and reasoning your roommate discusses.

Intentions Don’t Equal Impact

If your roommate expresses that you have hurt their feelings, it’s a crucial conflict resolution skill to acknowledge your best intentions may not always have the intended impact on others.

Process your actions’ impacts and reflect on how you can prevent bad impacts in the future. If you keep this in mind, apologize, and make up for your mistake through actions, that can make a huge difference. Furthermore, make sure these apologies are sincere and empathetic, so your roommate feels heard.

For instance, a suitable apology and amends might look like, “I’m sorry for not cleaning up my mess in the kitchen. I know that made it so you couldn’t cook, which is an enormous inconvenience to you. Starting now, I’ll clean up after I cook so you have room to do it, too. Other than that, what can I do to make this better?”

If you over-justify your actions or invalidate their concerns, it can alienate the other person. Defensiveness doesn’t help anybody. Also, you don’t want to focus on yourself because this situation isn’t about you. It’s about centering their feelings.

Know When to Take a Time Out

Stay in tune with how your body reacts under stress or conflict. Self-awareness about your feelings is a key conflict resolution skill. It can help prevent you from saying or doing something you’ll regret later. As an example, if you find that your fist or jaw clenches during an argument, or that your chest gets tight, it might be time to get space from the situation.

Keeping these signals in mind can help us detect when we should calm down or take some deep breaths before beginning or resuming the conversation.

If you’re already in mid-disagreement, notify the other person you want to pause for a bit before resuming the conversation.

You could say something such as, “It’s really important to me to work this out, and I’m not in the right state of mind to do that right now. I want to make sure I cool off before I say something I don’t mean. Can we talk about this in an hour?” This shows them that patching up the ongoing conflict is a priority to you and you want to handle it the right way.

At Worst, Accept Your and Your Roommate’s Differences

While we can dream, realistically, people don’t change overnight. Conflict management doesn’t always resolve how we want it to, and often, progress requires time and persistence.

A healthy relationship with your roommate may not mean that you’ll be best friends. However, that doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel. Since you’re living with this person, you should do your best to at least stay cordial with them.

If your problem feels like it’s still brewing, let the person know you are invested in continuing to work on the relationship. Or, if the situation is resolved quickly, let your roommate know you value them and their living experience with you.

Enhance Your Rental Experience with BMG

If you use mindful communication and self-reflection, it’s possible to develop conflict-resolution skills. With time and practice, you can learn how to be a good roommate.

You can sidestep some conflicts by having a home that works for everyone. Bay Management Group in North Virginia has years of experience overseeing property management. One of our jobs is to oversee home maintenance. So, we can step in to handle leaky faucets, pest control, defective dishwashers, and other common issues that might cause roommate friction. Contact us today to put more chores and conflicts off your list.

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