The housing crisis is an ever-present reality in the life of students. As a result, room sharing has become a popular option among students hoping to split the hefty rent bill. In my experience, beyond the financial incentives, having roommates is an adventure filled with wonderful memories. Sometimes, however, there is trouble in paradise. Occasional conflicts arise as each roommate tries to express their unique perspective. So, how does one deal with such conflicts?
The Importance of Realistic Expectations
When I had my first roommate, my mind swelled with utopian imaginings of how life together was going to be great. So, when we had our first misunderstanding, I was taken by surprise. “I can’t believe such a smart university student can be so immature”, I thought. My roommate probably thought the same thing. Wrong expectations and beliefs about having roommates can hamper conflict resolution. The following are some beliefs that I had to change:
- “We have conflict because I am or they are a bad person”: A dispute does not always mean one or both people involved are bad or wrong. Conflicts are normal and they can be a sign that the involved parties are being transparent with each other. Sometimes it’s with those we feel closest to that we fight the most, because we feel comfortable with each other.
- “It is my roommate’s fault that our conflict is ongoing”: Conflicts involve 2 or more people, and while it takes at least one person to start them, it also takes the effort of one person to stop them.
- “My roommate is so immature”: We all come from different backgrounds which influence how we approach situations. So, it’s always important to try viewing the conflict from the other person’s vantage point.
Prioritizing “Let me listen” over “Let’s talk” in communication
“Let’s talk”! In the past, I’ve approached communication with the expectation of being heard, which can lead to an unmoderated debate rather than conversation. I once argued with a roommate about the “right way” to close our front door—yes, the door. When we tried “to talk”, the conversation became a vocabulary battleground. It wasn’t until I went to the discussion table with a “listening” mindset that communication started to help resolve the conflict. Suddenly, I started understanding why he wanted the door closed his way. The more I listened, I discovered that he had a bigger underlying worry. In fact, I discovered that the door was not the problem. It’s important to know that sometimes the source of the conflict is more nuanced, and listening can help you tease it out.
Ask for advice and help
Sometimes, roommates are not able to resolve disputes on their own. Third parties can be helpful in this case. If living on campus residence, it’s usually advised to talk to a Residence Advisor. If the conflict is threatening physical harm, it is important to call campus security or the police. Safety first! The following are some important contacts:
- Campus Security: (604) 822-2222
- Vancouver Police (Requiring Immediate Action): 911
- Vancouver Police (Not Requiring Immediate Action): (604) 717-3321
Changing your expectations and beliefs is a step towards understanding the person and the conflict better, which can help resolve it. Let us know your tips for solving roommate disputes in the comments below!