Managing Roommate Conflict
Now that we are more than a month into the school year, we felt it is a good time to check in with you and offer some tips on how to guide your student through one of the traditional collegiate challenges: roommate conflict. This year may also be posing different challenges for you and your student as you navigate through the impacts of COVID-19.
Keep in mind that University Housing’s Resident Assistants (RAs) and Residence Life Coordinators (RLCs) are always happy to help support your student as they navigate these interpersonal relationships. Here are the top five things we think that your student should focus on to resolve roommate conflicts:
As with any conflict, there are two sides to the story. We encourage your student to do two things: First, examine their own role and responsibility for whatever issue is rising up. Second, respect the perception of the student they are having trouble with. In some cases, the student may not even know or understand why there is a problem. At the outset of conflict resolution, giving someone the benefit of the doubt can go a long way.
Set and Review Expectations
Suitemates started the year by completing a suitemate agreement: A shared vision of their expectations, rights, and responsibilities for the year ahead. The creation of those agreements should have provided an opportunity to discuss personal preferences on things such as: cleanliness, noise, guests, and use of each other’s personal property. Luckily, suitemate agreements are all online this year!
So an early part of your discussion with your student should involve whether or not the issue was covered adequately in those expectations. If not, then the next question is whether the expectation is reasonable and should be included for the future. (Keep in mind, it’s normal for some things to be missed, and for preferences/needs to change – if it’s reasonable, standards can shift over time). It is always a good idea to continue to review the agreements through the semester.
Good communication can be the key to successful roommate relationships within community style living. Once an issue arises, it’s important for the individuals in conflict to TALK about what the problem is and how to fix. Oftentimes, we as professionals find that there are a series of smaller conflicts that tend to accumulate, adding friction and pressure until a bigger issue ignites outward conflict. The key part is, most of the smaller conflicts can be easily resolved by identifying the issue, talking specifically about it, and working together to find a mutually agreeable COMPROMISE.
What’s most important is that student’s talk with each other frequently, which makes it easier for these “conflict resolving” conversations to happen. If the only time I ever talk with my roommate is when something is bugging me, we both might start to avoid conversations with each other entirely, because we associate them with conflict.
As we all navigate through the pandemic and the stressors that can arise, it is important that students are being responsible in regards to wearing masks, social distancing, and staying home when possible. If your student is perceiving that a roommate is not being respectful and considerate of the health and safety of our community in regards to COVD-19, encourage them to communicate their concerns with their roommate & to also notify their Resident Assistant or Front Desk Staff.
After a compromise has been reached, it’s important that both parties do what they say they were going to do. If specific changes were discussed, it is the responsibility of the residents to follow through on their part of the change. If that meant making amends for previous issues, that needs to happen too.
An important step in the process is to check in with each other a few days or weeks later to see how the resolution has worked. If the resolution seems to be working successfully, the next natural steps can be to begin forming stronger connections and friendship. If the resolution was not successful, it may need another round of efforts – starting back at Respect.
Please, encourage your student to reach out to University Housing staff. Resident Assistants (RAs) are student staff that live on the floor with residents and serve as a helpful resource to residents. Residence Life Coordinators (RLCs) are professional staff that supervise RAs and serve as a resource as well. As always, our Residence Life team is here to support your student as they spend their time in University Housing.
Story posted Oct. 13, 2020 – Courtesy of University Housing