Dealing with Conflict

After going through the CLA process and completing your Roommate Agreement, it might be hard to believe that you would ever have a conflict with your roommate(s) or other members of your community. Conflict does happen. While your RA and the full-time staff in the Community Center are here to help you, we want to give you the tools to successfully deal with your conflicts in order to help you deal with them when you graduate and move out into the “real world.”

While confrontation is not typically something most people enjoy, it may be necessary to address any issues you might be having. For example, if your roommate does something that makes you angry, and you are still upset 24 hours later, you should probably consider addressing the issue with your roommate. The ultimate goal of a confrontation is to solve the problem to the best of your ability. You will want to address the issue, your feelings on the issue, and allow the other person to do the same. It is crucial to maintain respect for each other throughout the confrontation process.

Guidelines for Confrontation:

  • Know your stuff. Outline what you want to talk about so you are able to properly address the issue(s).
  • Set the scene. Talk to the other person in a space that you both find comfortable/neutral.
  • State your expectations. Explain that you would like to address the issue in a calm and respectful manner, and that each person will get a chance to voice his or her opinion/feelings.
  • Be honest. Address the issue(s) in this setting. You do not want to be wishy-washy and avoid discussing the real issues—you may continue to be unhappy later.
  • Allow for conversation. Let the person you are confronting state his or her feelings on the matter.
  • Listen. The majority of conflicts arise because of miscommunication. Take the time to listen to the person you are confronting—don’t think of what you want to say next while he or she is speaking. Ask him or her to do the same when you are speaking.
  • Be decisive. When action is required, state what you would like to see happen to remedy the issue.
  • Get help when needed. If the situation gets out of hand, do not be afraid to get help from your RA.
  • Give it time. Things do not typically get better overnight. You and your roommate(s) or the person you had the conflict with need time to cool off, reflect, and take steps to address the problem.

Techniques to help you successfully confront:

  • "I" - statements: These statements let the person know how his or her behavior makes you feel and that you trust them to respect your needs by modifying their behavior. "I" - statements make it clear that the responsibility rests with the person receiving the message. "You" -statements, on the other hand, may be perceived as threatening and tend to teach people they are not responsible for their behavior.
    • Example: "I really need you to turn your music down. The loud bass makes it difficult for me to study."
  • Broken record: This technique is just what it sounds like. Repetition of a simple request can help you get through to the person you are confronting when he or she tries to throw you off track. Hearing you restate your request helps him or her understand that you are going to stand your ground and that tactics to change the subject or engage you in a debate will not work.
  • Fogging: This technique allows you to diffuse a difficult situation by avoiding defensive or attacking responses or engaging in a debate with the person you are confronting. To neutralize this type of manipulation, agree or empathize with the person. Using phrases like "I see how you might think...", "That may be...", and "...I understand how you feel..." validates the person's feelings. Responding in this manner usually diffuses the situation because you do not get caught in a cycle of defending yourself.

Learning how to talk with your roommate(s) and work through differences is one of the most important skills a student can learn when first getting to campus. This process is not always easy, but communication gets easier the more you practice it.