"A conflict is not a contest – there is no winner or loser. The goal of managing a conflict should be to reach a compromise and create a solution in which both people’s requests/needs are satisfied on some level."

Navigating Conflict

At some point, you and your roommate may disagree and conflict may arise.  Conflict is a completely natural occurrence. You may have different needs than those that you acknowledged at the beginning of the year, or you may feel that some of your rights as a roommate are being violated. When such instances occur it is important to revisit your Roommate/Suitemate Agreement you created at the beginning of the academic year.  These agreements are not final and can be revisited as expectations and needs change and evolve, but are a good place to start when dealing with a conflict.

Whatever the cause, conflict happens so it is important to learn how to manage it constructively.  Conflicts are often rooted in poor communication, so it is important to ask yourself if you have clearly communicated your expectation(s) in regards to a certain situation to your roommate.  If the honest answer is "No," then this would be the first step in resolving the conflict.  This is why discussing your expectations early on is so vital.

When a conflict does arise it is important to discuss the problem as soon as it occurs. It is much easier to manage conflicts before they escalate.  A conflict is not a contest – there is no winner or no loser. The goal of managing a conflict should be to reach a compromise and create a solution in which both people’s requests/needs are satisfied on some level.

Your RA is always available to help you navigate conflict with your roommate or suitemates, but it is important to take steps to address the situation individually.  Your RA is there to serve as a resource for you in helping to resolve conflict, but they are not responsible for resolving conflict for you.  It is the expectation that you will put in the necessary effort to resolve any conflict between you and your roommate or suitemates.

Tips for Managing Conflict

Conflict can make us feel uncomfortable and even angry.  If you feel like your emotions may prevent you from addressing the situation in a calm and effective manner, then it would probably be best to take some time until you are feeling less emotionally charged.  Sometimes it helps to take the night, other times you may want to take 24 hours, but don't take too long, because it is important to address conflict before it becomes any bigger.  Here are some tips on managing and addressing conflict with your roommate/suitemates:

  • Breathe!
  • Remind yourself that you can solve the problem
  • Affirm and acknowledge the position of others
  • Be respectful
  • Apologize if you're wrong and accept apologies given to you
  • Try not to involve other people
  • Choose an appropriate time and place to talk
  • Don't confront your roommate/suitemate in front of other people
  • Take a break if you need one

Body language can make a difference in conflict resolution.  Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Use appropriate eye contact.  Maintain good eye contact, while not staring your roommate down.
  • Uncross your arms and legs
  • Have the discussion while you are both seated
  • Listen to your voice.  Is it relaxed? In control?
  • Unclench your fists
  • Try to avoid broad or abrupt gestures

Approaching the Situation

When approaching a situation with your roommate it is important to:

  • Use "I Statements" to express yourself.  An “I Statement” is a way of telling the other person about your needs and feelings without putting the other person on the defensive. Example, "I feel frustrated when you have friends over late at night while I'm trying to sleep.  In the future, I would really appreciate it if we could discuss having guests visit in advance." 
  • Avoid words that are absolute, or can be perceived as blaming: Never, don't, always, should, unless, shouldn't, can't, better not, won't, etc.
  • Include words that create partnership: Maybe, I think, what if, we, I feel, sometimes, it seems like, I wonder, etc.
  • Propose a solution to the conflict, or ask if your roommate has one in mind.  It doesn't mean that it is the ultimate solution for the situation, but it is always helpful to address conflict with a resolution in mind.  This way you both can work towards a solution that meets both of your needs.
  • Be prepared to compromise.  This is the key to resolving conflict.  It may seem difficult for some, but acknowledging and approaching the conflict is the easy part.  Coming to a resolution is where the work comes in.  Finding a compromise and working through it together is a valuable skill that will help you throughout your life.

10 Ways to Be a Good Listener

Good listening is the cornerstone of managing a conflict. We all like to be heard; it makes us feel respected and validated. Listening also helps us to understand the nature of the conflict and gives us an opportunity to appreciate the other person’s point of view.

  • Stop talking.  Give your roommate the space to talk.
  • Put the talker at ease
  • Remove distractions.  Don't doodle, shuffle papers, or answer the phone.  Close the door.
  • Empathize with them and try to see the other side
  • Be patient, don't interrupt, and don't walk away
  • Control your temper
  • Go easy on argument and criticism
  • Ask questions.  It shows you care.
  • Focus on what the person is saying, not on what you're going to say next.
  • Pay attention