Addressing conflict can seem daunting and almost impossible at first, but there are several ways to make conflict resolution less intimidating and more successful for all parties involved.

Before the Conversation

  • Try to calm down first. By processing your emotions before approaching the topic, you can keep a level head during the conversation and keep an open mind about what your roommate may bring to the discussion.
  • Make notes. If your roommate asks for some specific examples of the behavior that upsets you, avoid generalizations or sweeping statements, like “all the time”.
  • Focus on the goal. By focusing on the outcome you are hoping for, you can help yourself and your roommate stay on topic and avoid conversation tangents that may only add to your anger or confuse the issue.
  • Talk it out. You may want to discuss this situation with someone who is not directly impacted by the conflict. Avoid bringing in the other roommates, if possible, or going to mutual friends to vent. An impartial listener may help you sort through what actually happened and what you want to happen in the future.
  • Get the facts straight. Did you actually see the behavior take place, or do you assume that something happened in your absence based on other information? Sorting out what you know, what you assume, and what information you might still need, can help you approach the conversation in a way that allows your roommate to bring additional facts to the table.

Starting the Conversation

  • Try to have the conversation in a neutral setting where all parties are sitting down and at the same eye level.
  • It can be helpful to start a conversation that makes you uncomfortable with some positive feedback. Example: “I think you are an awesome roommate, and we have a lot of fun together. But lately…”
  • Avoid raising your voice, cursing, or name calling. These behaviors will only escalate the other person’s emotions and unravel your chances for success.
  • Avoid sweeping statements, like “always” or “never”. Even if you feel like you are the only one who ever cleans the kitchen, stick with things that are facts. Example: I’ve cleaned the kitchen for the past three weeks.
  • Ask questions. Our brains and emotions tell us we know the whole story, but most times, we don’t. Questions allow your roommate the opportunity to bring more information to the table that can help you better understand their perspective. Examples: “Are you cleaning up at times I’m not around?” or “Does the cleaning schedule we discussed still work for you, or do we need to change it?”
  • Don’t interrupt. The situation has at least two sides, and your roommates deserves some time to talk as well. Write down any thoughts or questions you think of while they are talking to bring up in a few minutes.

After the Conversation

  • Thank your roommate for helping you work toward a solution. Reiterate that you value your relationship and want to keep it in a positive place.
  • Summarize any action items and solutions that everyone committed to.