Roomies & Conflict Resolution

Posted on Monday, May 07, 2018

Roommates are a part of college life. Almost anyone you ask has a wild roommate story (ask me about finding my roommate on the living room floor with half of a pancake on their face). Throwing several people from different backgrounds, values, habits, and views on made-for-tv movies under one roof creates a breeding ground for havoc - and for learning. This havoc is exacerbated when you put seven politically-outspoken people who don’t know each other in a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom apartment for a semester where many of them are working full-time internships for the first time. Oof. It is a mess.
Like many apartments, ours went through some conflict.
A lot. We went through a lot of conflict. Oh boy, it has been a wild ride. Through our rollercoaster of problems, I learned a few ways to cope and get through the semester in the most peaceful way possible:
  • Give that conflict a nice weighing in.
My mom used to say this annoying thing every time: Decide if it’s a little thing or a big thing. How much does this thing matter to you? If you’re upset because someone accidentally got a stain on your Jonas Brothers tee they borrowed, I think you should probably reconsider your anger and redirect it to things that matter.
  • Ask yourself what you want out of this.
What do you want out of bringing up a conflict with your RA, or the roommate directly? Is it something that can realistically be changed, or do you just need to air your grievances? Is it substantive? Will it begin a process of change that will make tomorrow better than today?
  • Wait 24 hours before you say what you want to say.
Are you an angry morning person? Me, too. Maybe don’t bring up conflict when someone uses your hair drier at 7 am for the third time. Sit on it for a while. Cool down and forget about it at work. If you decide you want to pursue bringing it up to the blow drier borrower at the end of the day, you’ll be in a much more rational state of mind, so you can bring it up to them that evening.
  • Be considerate.
Be kind. Be quiet getting ready in the morning and getting ready at night. Don’t bust in the room at 2 a.m. and throw your shoes across the room. Don’t slam cabinets (they kind of naturally slam - but what a nice move it is to put forth the extra effort to close them quietly wowza). Be perceptive to needs. You may come home ready to tell your roommate about your horrible day, but if they seem down or tired, give them some space and don’t try to have a conversation while they’re finishing up an episode of Scandal. Leave them be. Your day wasn’t that bad; you have the ability to take an unpaid internship in a first world country. Most importantly, keep in mind that everyone was raised in a home with different practices. Some people were raised in homes where shoes go by the door, and some were not. Shoe placement is probably not malicious - just a habit.
  • Take the good with the bad.
Having roommates exposes you to so much about human nature. You see people in their most raw and vulnerable state. You see them when they wake up with sleepy eyes and drag themselves out of their bed to start another 9-hour day. You see them crying on the phone with loved ones back home. You see them learning and growing right alongside you in a new and exciting environment. In the moment, it’s rough. You’ll feel hostility towards everyone at least once. But when you step back and take some time to appreciate everyone around you, for their best and worst, you feel a true sense of gratitude for these people who would have never been a part of your story had it not been for PPIP.

Megan Lefleur
Department of Health & Human Services | Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Washington, D.C. | spring 2018