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Resolving Roommate Conflicts

Roommates/suitemates are encouraged to complete and sign a written agreement at the start of each year that informally governs generally accepted behaviors in their residence (guests, cleaning, shared expenses, etc.). Nearly all roommate issues are due to lack of communication and poorly conveyed expectations. Despite the tensions that may be present, it is never too late to sit down with all roommates and discuss concerns. Remember, each situation is unique and resolution timelines will vary. If you are experiencing conflict with your roommate(s), please follow the suggested mediation process:

Set up a time when all roommates can be present, and discuss the things that are causing tension. Before you start, set up these ground rules:

  • Use "I" statements; take responsibility for the way you feel and don’t place blame. (Example: “I need access to the bathroom from 8 a.m. - 8:30 a.m. every M/W/F to be showered for work,” instead of “You’re always hogging the bathroom in the morning!”)
  • Only one person talks at a time.
  • Voices should remain calm and low.
  • Maintain eye contact with each other. You may need to develop trust.
  • People should only speak about relevant facts. No innuendo or character defamation should occur.
  • Address specific behaviors; do not generalize.

After ground rules have been established, each person should make a brief opening statement to define the issues as he or she understands them. Define the issues that need further discussion and negotiation. Remember; encourage each other to speak in specifics. Replace phrases like, “You’re messy,” with specific responsibilities and timelines for completion; “Can we set up a nightly rotation to do the dishes?” or “Let’s establish a bi-weekly rotation for taking out the trash.”

If the conflict continues, contact your RA, CA, or RD. Explain your concerns to your staff member, and allow your staff member to speak with all parties individually to understand all perspectives. At that time, your RA, CA, or RD may suggest mediation with all roommates present.

At mediation, follow the same procedures as Step 1 above. The staff person will guide the conversation to help your group develop options that will alleviate the issues of concern. Recognize the needs and interests of all parties. Conflicts occur not only due to misunderstandings, but when one party is judgmental of and devalues the needs of the other. Finalize the process by developing an implementation plan. This plan should detail the specific responsibilities of all parties in writing. It can take the form of a roommate contract, or a revision of one done previously in the year. The plan should include the following:

  • Provide a framework for carrying out the plan.
  • Define how to ensure that all parties are following through.
  • Provide alternative ways of handling the dispute if it should continue.
  • The final plan should be acceptable and agreed upon by all parties. It should be signed and distributed.

If the conflict continues to be an issue, address the situation again with your RA, CA, or RD. They will schedule a meeting with the Resident Director/Coordinator who will convene with the Housing Office to decide what further steps to take. Should a room change become necessary, refer to the Room Change Process.