Managing Conflicts

No matter how well you get to know your roommate before arriving on campus or how well you design a roommate agreement, some kind of conflict will undoubtedly arise. This may be something trivial that simply annoys you or something much more serious. Whether the conflict occurred because someone put an empty milk carton back in the fridge or one roommate stole the other's stereo, every issue needs to be resolved.

If the conflict is minor, sit down with your roommate as soon as possible and discuss the issue — talk about why you are concerned and listen to what she has to say. After you have each had a chance to speak, work together to find a solution. If your conflict is more heated, you might be best served by stepping away for a while and calming down. However, do not complain to other friends about what is happening. Long after the conflict has been resolved, your friends will remember the things you said about your roommate and may even repeat your harsh words. Then you could have another conflict to deal with. Instead, take a walk, call your family to vent (and explain that you are only venting, not asking for solutions), or go work out at the gym. Once you have calmed down, approach your roommate about the situation. Again, explain your views and why the situation upset you so much, and then give your roommate a chance to respond. If she becomes upset, ask if she wants to take a break before discussing the situation further. But don't let things fester for long before you continue your conversation and work on a resolution.

Your college will also provide you with a great resource for working through roommate conflicts: your RA. This student has lived through what you are experiencing and has taken the RA job in order to help others. All Ras receive formal and informal training about roommate conflicts. So, when you are having difficulty with your roommate, knock on your RA's door and ask for some time to talk privately. Be completely open with your RA — she will keep your problem confidential.

People deal with conflict in very different ways. Some get angry, shout, and then forget about it. Others keep quiet and address the issue only after significant thought. Find out how your roommate deals with conflict, and then explain your own approach. Keep these different styles in mind as you work through your differences.

Your RA can approach your roommate conflict in several ways. If the problem is manageable, your RA will most likely choose to act as a moderator while the two of you talk things out. If the issue is more serious or involves physical or emotional health, your RA may choose to refer you to a counseling service on campus. Your RA's ultimate goal is to have each roommate learn conflict resolution skills so that future problems can be dealt with more peacefully. One important thing to remember is that your RA is a student, just like you. She attends classes, goes to parties, and travels home on breaks. Though she will do everything she can to help you resolve your roommate conflict, she only has so much time and energy to spend on your problems. For this reason, you should always try to resolve a conflict on your own before soliciting your RA's assistance.

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