How to Settle a Dispute with a Roommate

You can choose your friends and you can choose how often you see your family, but you usually can’t choose your roommate. While many colleges do their best to match roommates according to personality, preferred cleanliness, and even interests, at the end of the day you are stuck with the roommate you’re assigned. Some college students really luck out and get paired with roommates who end up becoming lifelong friends. Others may have a difficult time relating to their roommate or agreeing on how to use the shared space.

Disagreeing with a roommate can affect sleep, mood, and quality of life — especially if the issue continues unresolved over a long period of time. However, it’s not always easy to find ways of communicating and compromising over roommate issues and some individuals find that trying to work it out makes the situation even worse.

If you find yourself caught in a battle or standoff with your roommate, here are some tips for setting the dispute so that you can feel more relaxed and free in your living space.

  1. Be direct. Passive aggression may seem like it solves the problem, but these fixes are often temporary and can lead to retaliation. If you are frustrated or have a problem with the way your roommate behaves, bring it up with them directly when you are in a place to have a calm, reasonable conversation. Do not bring up the issue if you are feeling highly emotional or angry.
  2. Don’t approach with blame. Even though you may clearly see that your roommate is in the wrong, don’t approach a conversation with a blaming attitude. This could cause your roommate to become defensive and angry. Instead, frame your concerns and requests in terms of your own experience and needs. By taking this approach you will have a better chance of evoking compassion.
  3. Offer solutions and compromises. Don’t expect your roommate to come all the way to your side of the aisle or create a solution to the problem. Come to the conversation with some strategies and compromises in mind and offer them as alternatives.
  4. Be open-minded. In order to successfully resolve a dispute you may need to be open to empathizing with your roommate, seeing the situation from their perspective and even changing your mind. If you are requesting open-mindedness of your roommate, you should demonstrate that you are also willing to change and are open to suggestions.
  5. Bring in a mediator or third party. If you have been unable to solve a dispute on your own or find yourself getting frustrated every time you discuss a particular issue, it may be necessary to recruit a neutral third party to help facilitate the conversation and help you and your roommate reach an agreement.