How Can You Ease Tensions With a College Roommate?

RoommatesMeeting your new roommate is an exciting milestone, but personality conflicts may leave you wondering how to ease tensions with a college roommate. Ideally, your school screens roommates for basic compatibility. Even the most compatible roommates, however, may eventually feel tension from the pressures associated with shared living space. This article contains several tips for addressing those tensions and conflicts.

Be Pro-Active

Depending on your personal and family background, freshman year of college may be your first time living with a roommate. Before you move into your dorm room, do some self-reflection to identify situations that are likely pressure points or triggers for you. For instance, what is your tolerance level for a messy room? How comfortable are you with the idea of your roommate’s significant other spending the night in your room? Thinking through these scenarios ahead of time is a great opportunity to discuss some “ground rules” with your roommate at the beginning of the year. If you and your roommate talk through some of these scenarios, you may be able to mitigate or even avoid related tension in the future.

Communicate Face to Face and in Private

If you are already at a point of tension with your college roommate, it may be tempting to avoid a confrontation. Unfortunately, evasive and passive aggressive responses tend to stoke the flames in a volatile or tense situation. One of the best things you can do to keep tension low is to go directly to your roommate to address brewing conflicts. While writing a note or email may seem like a less confrontational approach, it actually introduces greater potential for misunderstanding. A face to face conversation with your roommate is the uncomfortable, but most successful way to address tensions. Obviously, you should do your best to keep the tone of conversation as respectful as possible. Moreover, U.S. News & World Report advises against engaging outside people such as friends and neighbors in your roommate conflicts; in these scenarios, extra voices can distract and distort the issue at hand.

Use Available Resources If Necessary

While pro-active planning and direct conversation can resolve most roommate conflicts, you may find yourself in a situation that will not respond to these methods. If you have tried unsuccessfully to address roommate tensions on your own, it may be time to engage assistance from available resources at your school. Your first stop should be a local one: the resident advisor or assistant in your dormitory. Whether a student or professional, these individuals typically receive training in conflict resolution and mediation. They can help you navigate tense situations responsibly, and introducing a neutral third party can be a highly effective strategy. For especially serious situations, you may ask your RA to steer you and your roommate toward other available resources such as campus counselors, the housing office, or even a dean.

Related Resource: When to Take a Campus Visit

Simply maintaining an open line of communication can help you resolve the vast majority of roommate conflicts. However, if a situation is truly severe, it may be necessary to explore other options or seek help from an outside party. In any case, patience and experience may be your best weapons when learning how to ease tensions with a college roommate.