It’s the beginning of a new school year, which means many students have recently moved back on campus. For most of us, our college housing situation involves at least one roommate, if not multiple. Whether you’re meeting your roommates for the first time or moving in with your lifelong best friends, conflicts are sure to arise as the semester kicks off and you begin doing life alongside your roommates. While it can be tempting to bury issues or passive-aggressively react, these methods usually result in broken friendships and strained living conditions. With this in mind, I would love to share five conflict resolution tips to help you and your roommates work through issues in a healthy way.
Tip 1: Problems are Never 100/0
It can be easy to push all the blame on your roommates and believe you are the victim; however, this is rarely the case. There are very few situations where 100% of the blame lies with one person and the other person carries 0% of the fault. While it might not be 50/50, do not automatically assume you are blameless. Try to objectively view the situation. Even though you may not have started the issue, look for any ways that you might have provoked your roommate and made the conflict worse. Even if you carry “only 5%” of the blame, that 5% is the part you can work on and change.
Tip 2: Don’t Let Your Emotions Talk
Your emotions are valid, and you should not bury them. However, you also shouldn’t allow them to be your spokesperson. Emotions are messy and do not effectively communicate what you are trying to say. It is good to recognize emotions and work through why you are feeling, but I would suggest not talking with your roommate until you are at a point where you have mastered your emotions and you are not going to “blow up” as you start discussing the problem. This could mean taking 30 minutes to go have some alone time and pray or sleeping on the problem. You don’t have to wait until you feel nothing toward the situation, but it is wise to manage your emotions so that you will be able to listen and accept correction as well when you have conversations about issues.
Tip 3: Assess Your End Goals
Before you talk to your roommate, determine what you are hoping will change or what you want from your roommate. Think through different scenarios and find your “ideal situation” so you can effectively communicate that to your roommate. After sharing your goal, be willing to ask your roommate about their end goal and figure out what they want. You should always determine what both you and your roommate’s goals are so you know what you are working towards. Working towards a common goal helps diffuse some of the negative energy.
Tip 4: Be Willing to Negotiate
Once you have established the two goals you are working toward, figure out how to achieve an agreement. It is unlikely that you will both get your ideal situation, so be willing to negotiate and compromise. Work together to find a solution that works for both parties while maintaining a calm voice. Avoid arguing back and forth and refusing to compromise. Keep in mind that compromise usually means you won’t get everything you want. Thus, it’s important to determine your number one priority and be willing to consent to other things while still holding fast to your top priority.
Tip 5: Remember Your Roommates are People too
At the end of the day, it can be hard to remember, but your roommates are people just like you. They are created in the image of an almighty God, and they are struggling with a sinful nature just like you. So whatever conflicts come up, love them. Be willing to consider their situation and extend grace as needed. Apologize for any ways that you helped add to the conflict or caused emotional baggage to the situation. Genuinely seek to help your roommate achieve their goal, and do not only be self-seeking. After the conflict has been resolved, respect the agreement you reach and don’t hold a grudge against your roommate.
While conflict is never fun, it is a normal part of human life. We are made uniquely different for each other and that is wonderful. How boring would it be if we were all the same? But these differences bring out conflicting opinions. The key is in how we handle them. Let us strive to be a generation that honors and loves others well. If we truly work to hear and love others, we can better function as the body of Christ, featuring many different people with various gifts. With this goal in mind, I hope that these tips help as you work towards healthy conflict resolution rather than relationship destruction this semester.