How to Confront Your Roommate About a Problem

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Whether you are in college or simply trying to save on rent, a roommate plays a big part in your day-to-day life. When the relationship goes well, great! But when things go south, the stress can affect both your emotional and physical health. Several strategies will help you and your roommate confront the little issues, like leaving laundry on the ground, and the bigger issues, like inviting unwanted guests over.

Set Expectations

Most conflicts occur because expectations aren't clearly outlined. Know what you need in your home, apartment or dorm and understand what you expect from your roommate. Clearly explain these expectations. Likewise, listen to your roommate's expectations. Knowing what you and the other person desire in a shared living situation sets clear boundaries and creates a strong foundation for the future. In fact, some roommates may find it helpful to create a written agreement that outlines these expectations, such as how the house cleaning schedule will be shared or how late someone can have friends over.

Wait for a Good Time to Confront the Other Person

Don't confront your roommate in the heat of the moment when you notice her dirty laundry in the bathroom or see that he left moldy food in the fridge. Likewise, avoid broaching the subject when one of you is heading out to an appointment. Instead, wait for a time when both you and your roommate can sit down and chat. If necessary, set a specific time that both of you are available. When one of you feels rushed or is caught unaware by the discussion, he or she may avoid the problem or react brashly or in anger.

Explain, Listen and Stay Neutral

Enter into the confrontation with your roommate with a calm and positive demeanor. Clearly explain your previously outlined expectations for the situation, and detail the action, item or situation that did not meet this expectation. Use language such as "I felt" or "I expected" instead of "You did this" or "You are such-and-such." This focuses the confrontation on the specific issue, and avoids making your roommate feel judged.

Set a Solution

After explaining why you are upset, and allowing your roommate to explain himself or herself, come to an actionable agreement. For example, verbalize or write down the solution to the problem, such as "We agree not to have parties on weeknights," instead of simply airing the problem and going your separate ways. Keep in mind that sometimes the solution is to compromise. Sharing space means you can't always get your way.