Top 10 Ways to Resolve Roommate Conflict

Despite our age and experience, living with someone is never easy.  Take it from Jonathan and Caleb who are new roommates on campus. Having previously had their own bedrooms in their old home, learning to share a room has brought its challenges. So, having recently moved in together, I thought I’d ask them their advice.  Here are Jonathan and Caleb’s “Top 10 Ways to Resolve Roommate Conflict”:

  1. Give them flowers
  2. Be kind
  3. Have an R.A. give them a “reminder”.
  4. Tell your teacher if someone is being mean
  5. Say “I’m sorry”
  6. Have some alone time
  7. Don’t take the other person’s things
  8. Sing them a song
  9. Ask if they are okay
  10. Fold your clothes a lot

The thing is, they’re right. They might use different words to describe their points of view, but it might do us adults some good to evaluate our “mature” perspectives and heed some advice.  Whether you are currently experiencing a conflict with a roommate or getting ahead of the game by learning what you can before you move in, here are a few takeaways from the list above:

  • Reach out. It is normal and okay to have tension and conflict with another person when you live so closely. But before you make up your mind that you are the one who has been wronged, ask some questions. Reach out to the other with a desire to understand where they are coming from. That doesn’t mean you have to agree, but it does mean you need keep an open mind that if two people are living in a space there is potential that there could be two sides of the story.  Whether this is in the form of “asking if they are okay”, or “saying I’m sorry”, reach out before you close in.
  • Take care of your space and your things. Whether you are living in a resident hall, a cottage or own your own home, a living space has more to offer when you take care of it. Maybe your roommate prefers things clean and you like things messy. And maybe you wish you could just live how you want to live. But regardless, when given something like a place of your own to live, it grows character when we respect it and take care of it. So for the sake of developing responsibility AND honoring the person who shares your space- “fold your clothes a lot”, wash your dishes, “don’t take other people’s things”.
  • Do something nice.  No one has ever said you have to be best friends with your roommate, but you can alway be a friend TO your roommate. Even if tension is flying in the air, you have the ability to access creativity and offer a kind gesture.  So maybe “singing a song” is way out of your comfort zone and “buying flowers” feels more romantic than you’d like, but could you offer an invitation to share a lunch? Or offer to clean their cereal bowl, or hold the door for them when you exit the building? Small things can go a long way.
  • Ask for help. Your experience here at Hope College matters.  And YOU matter. So if you are unsure of how to handle a situation, or if you feel unsafe, not only can you “tell a teacher if someone is being mean”, but you can lean into the support systems surrounding you. Inform a Resident Assistant or a Resident Director or seek counsel from the Counseling Center and other various resources on campus.

Like so many other aspects of your life on campus here at Hope College, having a roommate is an opportunity to learn and grow. Whether you knew nothing about your roommate before you arrived and now you have a new best friend, or you were best friends when you got here and it’s just not working how you thought it would, there is an invitation in the experience itself, to learn about yourself and about building relationships.  But if you’re not sure how to figure out what that invitation is, feel free to stop by Gilmore Hall and ask Jonathan and Caleb- I’m sure they’d have some advice.


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