Attention drama queens and drama kings! Life with your roommate doesn’t have to feel like a never-ending soap opera. With a bit of patience and strategy, you can use smart problem-solving skills to avoid the drama and maintain a peaceful existence in your apartment.
Address it early
The thing about problems is that they only become problems when you let them get out of hand. Problem solve in advance to keep common roommate issues from blowing out of proportion. If you don’t discuss potential problems while they are just small annoyances, “could you please fold your laundry so I can use the dryer?” can quickly turn into “you never help out around here.”
Remember to offer solutions instead of simply stating what is bothering you. Being specific will help your roommate understand why the issue bothers you and could help him or her know how to fix the problem. Try a statement like this: “Sometimes your laundry is still in the dryer when I’m ready to use it. I hate to bother you and ask you to fold it right at that moment, but it would be great if you could clear the dryer in a timely way. Or could I place your laundry in a basket and set it aside?”
Ask the right way
When you’re offering solutions and asking for your roommate to change behavior, it’s important to ask in a respectful way. If you interrupt them during their favorite TV show or if you seem confrontational, they might get annoyed or defensive. Statements like “we need to talk” are vague and alert them that there’s a challenge ahead. Instead propose that you find 15 minutes for a household meeting to discuss what’s working and not working. In fact, it’s wise to have weekly roommate meetings so you can talk about everything from grocery lists to house rules. When you are used to having frequent discussions, it won’t be so difficult to problem solve when an issue comes up.
You can also improve your chances for a productive conversation if you remain calm. People tend to match each other’s energy level when talking. If you stay relaxed and speak in a calm manner, your roommate will likely follow your behavior.
Enlist a third party
If you are nervous about approaching your roommate to talk about a problem, invite a neutral party to mediate. Don’t just spring this on your roommate as a surprise. Instead, when you are having trouble agreeing on an issue, you might suggest that a level-headed friend listen to both sides and offer their solutions for compromise. It’s like having a therapist for your roommate drama.
Agree to disagree — agreeably
Another smart strategy for problem solving is to find a win-win situation. This way all parties get a little bit of what they want and no one has to feel like they’ve lost the battle. Enter your discussions with the goal of clearing the air, instead of looking for an argument. Use negotiation skills instead of fighting tactics. You can even take your negotiation to the next level by creating a roommate contract that outlines the behavior and responsibilities that each person agrees to. Creating a roommate agreement might make issues so clear that you never have to discuss them again!
Having a roommate should be more fun than fuss, so air out your differences early and effectively to avoid unnecessary roommate drama.