Conflict resolution

Tips on how to handle roommate conflic

Graphic by: Sarah MasseyI Production Manager

The first year as a freshman can be hard, especially when you’re not used to sharing a room. It’s a year of learning to adapt to a person’s surroundings, a time spent making friends and setting the starting point for a person’s GPA. Many students can find friends in their roommates and suitemates but what happens when conflict arises? Students share their advice on not only how to handle roommate and suitemate conflict but also things they wished they had known during their first year.

Handling Roommate and Suitemate Disagreements

“Handling roommate/suitemate conflicts can be very stressful and tense. In the past, I have had
‘roommate meetings’ where everyone gets a chance to talk about things that are bothering them. This gives people a space to kindly talk about their problems,” Ferris technical and professional communication sophomore Kendyl Kirkland said. “I guess just speak your mind but you can’t be too assertive or too passive either. So, I mean, you’ve just kind of got to know that ‘oh, someone didn’t change the toilet paper so I’ll do it instead’ whereas, if it’s something like if you let someone come over and you didn’t let them know and they trashed the place, then that can be something addressed,” Ferris elementary education freshman Lauren Jones said.

Advice for Incoming Freshman

“I have learned that the best way to handle conflicts is to be honest, be upfront and be nice. A lot of the time people aren’t aware that what they’re doing is bothering you, so give them the benefit of the doubt. With that said, don’t allow your discomfort and annoyance to fester. Address the issue,” Kirkland said. “In housing, we give roommate and suitemate agreements first thing, so that you and your suitemate can set some ground rules and guidelines to follow. I think that is really important to do that as soon as possible just so that if something happens, you can come back to those things you discussed. That prevents a lot of fighting and disagreement, especially in shared spaces,” Ferris biology and pre-pharmacy senior Erin Duma said.

If I’d only known…

“I wish I had known that conflict is inevitable and that the more honest and considerate I was, the more effective resolution would be,” Kirkland said. “I guess just get to know your roommates. I thought it was kind of a good idea to go in blind and one of the roommates I have now, our personalities collide and it doesn’t work out very well. So, I think one thing to do is to get to know your roommate beforehand. Don’t just get to know them on move-in day and expect to be best friends, because that isn’t how it always works,” Jones said. “I guess go in it with an open mind because you hear a lot of horror stories, no matter what. Like, everybody has a different experience. So, I think it’s beneficial to just try to be open to the situation because some people have never lived with another person that close before,” Duma said.

Methods of Rules and Boundaries

“After living with others, I realized that I had had more practice making boundaries than my other roommates because of my past. This was helpful and frustrating. I always took the approach of getting advice from a trusted friend to see if I was too sensitive about something or if I was too close to the situation to see it clearly. Then I would go to the person and, using ‘I’ statements, explain my boundaries, their purpose and that I expect the person to respect my boundaries. It’s important to realize that in the grand scheme of things, this is not a big deal and the tension will pass if everyone is honest and respectful,” Kirkland said.