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There are some advantages to living alone. However, many people opt to live with a roommate so they can afford a better apartment or save money. A good roommate can reduce loneliness, keep you accountable for personal goals and become a lifelong friend. On the flip side, a bad roommate can ruin your life. Fortunately, there are some things you can take to deal with roommate conflict or avoid it altogether. Here are five steps to regain your peace and reduce roommate conflict.
1. Vet Your Options
Vetting roommates before they move in is the easiest way to avoid a toxic living situation. If you can afford to wait, take your time before you commit to living with someone. Spend time talking to them and find out how they spend their time. Try to determine their character and browse their social media accounts.
Before you talk to potential roommates, write a list describing the kind of person you want to live with. What are your non-negotiables and what are you willing to live with? It is possible to get along very well with a complete stranger. However, it’s equally possible that you’re setting yourself up for failure.
2. Set Initial Boundaries
After you’ve chosen a roommate, have a conversation about boundaries. This is one of the most crucial steps to regain your peace. You can even do this as part of your vetting process. Ask your new roommate about their pet peeves and share your own. Talk about your expectations for living together so you can avoid frustration later. Discuss how you’d like to handle conflict and what your ideal living situation looks like.
For example, your new roommate might want a quiet space to destress, while you plan to use your shared living space to host friends as often as possible. Discussing boundaries at the beginning of your lease sets a precedent for open, honest conversation. This tip is essentially about being intentional – the plan may change later, but at least you have a plan!
3. Communicate Openly
Every person is different and it’s normal to feel frustrated occasionally when you live with someone else. The question isn’t whether you’ll feel frustrated but rather how you’ll handle those feelings. Open communication is your best tool for navigating future conflict and ensuring your relationship with your roommate stays positive.
If your roommate does something that makes you upset or uncomfortable, talk to them about it. It’s okay to ask for outside advice if you’re not sure how to handle confrontation. However, it’s not a good idea to excessively complain about your roommate before you talk to them directly. Many problems are caused by misunderstanding or thoughtlessness.
4. Listen With Empathy
Try to think about your roommate’s point of view and ask questions instead of leaping to conclusions. Use “I” statements to let them know how you feel and present yourself as being on their team. Stay curious about their behavior so you can discover what the real problem is. Most of the time, your roommate’s action wasn’t meant to be personal.
As an example, you may be upset because your roommate never cleans up after themselves. Talk about how that makes you feel and ask them what’s going on. Listen to what they say and don’t react negatively if they’re defensive at first. Show them that you care about them and try to find a compromise together.
5. Just Move Out
In some cases, your roommate won’t be willing to work with you. Giving others grace is important, but that doesn’t mean you need to enable or tolerate poor behavior. Some people have roommates who manipulate them, lie to them, stop paying rent or have personality issues. If your roommate is driving you crazy and you’ve tried everything, there’s one more step you can take.
Just move out. Do whatever you need to to get away from a dangerous or toxic roommate situation. Find a new place to live and don’t hesitate to sever the relationship. Stay true to your values and your boundaries. For example, pay the rest of your rent but don’t pay their rent. Stay kind in your communication but be firm.
Take the Initiative
When you live with roommates, conflict is inevitable. However, you can reduce stress and take the necessary steps to regain your peace by being intentional with this relationship. Don’t stew or worry about confrontation for weeks before you say something. Practice clear, kind communication and teach yourself to respond rather than react to your roommates.
Some roommate situations are irretrievable. If you’re experiencing intense anxiety or fear for your safety, it’s time to find a new living situation. Don’t put the blame for a stressful roommate situation entirely on yourself – successful communication and compromise take two people. You can use this guide to improve your next roommate situation!