Managing Conflict Part II: The Peaceful Dorm Room

August 22, 2012 by John Andrew Williams

Many recent high school graduates are quickly approaching the next exciting phase of their life – college.  Moving away from home means these teens will be leaving behind familiar environments and the friends/classmates they know well.  One of the biggest new challenges is navigating the roommate relationship.  Often paired together by chance or based on responses to a brief survey, roommates will occupy close quarters in the dorm and have to adapt to each other’s habits.  Jodi Bakken, a writer and community outreach manager for Fight Your Case, will share what she knows about getting along with new roommates.

Q: Jodi, you’ve done a lot of research about what it means for teens to be a great roommate and have peace in their dorm room.  What kind of practical advice can you give a teen about to go off to college?

In college, you are going to have a lot of responsibilities like schoolwork, your social life, and keeping in touch with family and friends from back home. Because you are going to be so busy, you and your roommate may forget to consider how your own words and actions are affecting each other.

If you both agree right from the start to tell each other when something is bugging you, it will usually keep things from getting out of hand. The longer you wait to talk to each other when you are annoyed, the more anger builds up and the bigger the disagreement will be and the harder it will be to resolve it.

Q: Some situations tend to generate more conflict than others.  What situations should be avoided and how can a conflict be diffused?

Before getting mad at a roommate for something they’re doing, think about whether you’re doing anything that could bug them. Being self-aware and considerate of others can go a long way.

  • Have clear communication with your roommate about things that may bother either of you.
  • Don’t get mad if your roommate tells you when something bugs them. Then be nice when you tell them something they are doing that’s bothering you.
  • Ask your roommate how they feel about borrowing from one and other (especially about food and clothes), and then respect their wishes on the matter.
  • Do your best not to interfere with your roommate’s ability to study and sleep. As long as you both get enough time for both, most other stuff can be worked out fairly easily.

Q: What are the common “hot button” issues that new roommates often fight about?

  • Girlfriends or Boyfriends visiting the room
  • How frequently and when you choose to study in the room
  • Borrowing your roommate’s items without permission
  • Neatness (or lack thereof) in the room or with hygiene
  • Money issues (generally for off-campus students who need to pay rent or bills)

Q: Can you give us an example of a roommate conflict, what it was about, and how it was resolved?

One college student being deathly afraid of her roommate’s pet snake, and one day finds the snake curled up in the middle of the room on the floor. She was so afraid that she beat the snake to death! The two were able to reconcile and stay roommates. By being patient with your roommate and keeping the door open for communication, most conflicts can be successfully resolved!

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