Managing conflict among roommates

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Student blogger Chloe Wiersma (right) traveled last week to Scottsdale, Ariz.

Last weekend, I traveled to Scottsdale, Ariz., for a leadership rally for newly elected presidents of the Public Relations Student Society of America. When I wasn’t soaking up the 116-degree heat, I was meeting other presidents from across the country and listening to speakers share tips on how to be a good leader.

A recurring topic among many attendees was how to manage conflict, specifically when the conflict involves friends. The idea got me thinking. Although I’ve never truly experienced conflict in the workplace, I have experienced it at school among my roommates.

I live with four girls in one tiny apartment and we get along great. However, we are very different and we handle conflict very differently.

For example, I’m straightforward. If someone doesn’t like the way I do something, I’d rather they say it to my face right away so I can fix it. I hate the idea that I might be doing something that someone doesn’t like and not know it. My feelings don’t get hurt easily and I’m not easily offended. My roommates know this.

Through the school year, I discovered how my roommates choose to deal with conflict. For instance, although I like people to be straightforward with me, not everyone feels comfortable doing this. Some may prefer to send me a text while others would rather talk face to face.

In addition, I can’t approach everyone the same way I would like to be approached. Some people would prefer a more passive approach. I’ve found that something like this works well:

“Hey, I’ve noticed you’ve been wearing a few of my shirts to class. That’s totally fine if you want to borrow stuff. But, could you just text me next time so I’m not looking for it?”

This has never been said in my house before because we’re always trading and borrowing clothes, but you get the idea.

Basically, it just comes down to being nice and genuine. It might be helpful to ask another roommate for advice on the situation (“Am I overreacting?”). On the other hand, the worst thing you can do is go to a different roommate to complain about one of your other roommates. That accomplishes nothing and eventually causes more problems.

It might be helpful to sit down as a group and hash things out. Don’t gang up on anyone, but do let people know what’s bothering you. It sounds dramatic, but in all honesty, it helps save friendships and keeps everyone happy. I have to constantly remind myself that I am living among four other people. We share one bathroom and sometimes tensions will be high (ahem- finals anyone?).

UW-Stevens Point blogger Chloe Wiersma is a communication major with a public relations emphasis and a business administration minor from Beaver Dam, Wis.

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