With so many students coming in every year, you can’t expect anything less that some few disagreements here and there. It is likely they won’t have anything else to share other than a room simply because it is rare that you find two roommates who knew each other in the past. What does this mean?
Simple, it will take time for the two to know each other’s limits, but only if they are willing to do so. What you mustn’t forget is that sharing a room can make two best friends. It can also make great enemies. It all depends on how you address the situation. As a resident advisor, your main task is to ensure that Roommate Conflicts doesn’t turn into anything bad, but sometimes it isn’t easy as it seems. It takes a ‘really’ good resident advisor to dig into what two residents living together are thinking, some of the things that might encourage roommate conflicts and most importantly, how to facilitate the conflict. In this article, I’m going to take you through a brief overview of common mistakes when facilitating roommate conflicts and some of the great tips on how to avoid them.
Mistakes to avoid when addressing roommate conflicts
1. Having a conversation with each roommate separately at different times: It worsens to a point that separating the two for some few minutes or hours might seem appropriate. This might come in handy, especially when trying to cool things down.
Why is it a bad idea? The reason this isn’t advisable is the fact that it isn’t the best way to go if you are trying to improve the conversation, meaning that they will still need you the next time they conflict. As a Resident Advisor, you have to ensure that roommates are safe around each other even without your presence.
2. Involving the roommate throughout the entire process: As mentioned above, it isn’t a wise idea talking to each roommate separately, but is it okay to involve them through the entire process? NO. The truth is, this might only be a good idea if you are trying to shorten the process, but not wise.
The reason this won’t work: As said earlier this is the quickest method to resolve a conflict, but not the best choice simply because you might have a hard time understanding the situation. Another possible occurrence is that they might come to a resolution, but won’t be in a position to understand the meaning of equality. Chances that a stronger personality might dictate the conversation and encourage endless arguments are high. Just when you thought this might be a shortcut to facilitating roommate conflict, pointless arguments might make it longer.
3. Assuming that conflict will work out itself: Never forget that even adults need guidance. Once everything heats up between them, each one will be trying to dominate the argument, and chances that it might lead to a fight are high. One vital purpose of a Resident Advisor is to act as a mediator when things are not going well between the roommates.
The reason you need to act immediately: You might think that by doing this, you are invading their privacy but the truth is, they need your advice and to stop anything bad from happening. They don’t need time to work out things. In short, they need your help with the situation. Think of it this way, what if one of them is shy or feels intimidated by the other party? What if the dominant roommate is doing this on purpose?
4. Guiding the parties throughout the conversation: This is one great mistake most RA. What you must understand in a facilitated dialogue is that allowing the roommates to come up with their own resolution empowers them and the best part, makes it easier for you as an RA to understand exactly what is going on. By doing this, you will force them to improve the way they communicate with each other throughout the time they have to share the room. But sometimes this might not go well simply because everyone will be trying to get on the top. What you can do is, direct the conversation, for example, let one participant talk at a time.
As you can see some of the things that might seem to come in handy might not only worsen the situation but may make the rest of the days the roommates have to stay with each other a nightmare. Here are some few tips on how to effectively facilitate roommate conflicts.
Advice on how to facilitate roommate conflicts
1. The LARA method: LARA stands for Listen, Affirm, Respond and lastly, add.
- L-Listen: Listen actively and assure them that you are with them by nodding or making some gestures that show you are in the conversation.
- Affirm: Affirm or acknowledge. Just like listening, let them know that you understand the situation by stating a fact, for example, saying that you understand clearly why the argument had to come up and more.
- Respond: Address each and every need brought up by the roommates.
- Add: After successfully applying the three above, you have to provide your view on the situation and how to go about it. However, you should not force it.
2. Include ‘I’ in your statements: An ‘I’ in statement discourages pointless arguments. For example, you can say something like, ‘I have a hard time understanding what I’m reading when the music is playing.’ As you can see in the sentence, no one is told he or she is doing anything wrong. The sentence explains the feelings of the person talking and how he or she likes the problem to be solved.
Roommate conflicts are there to be. What matters a lot is being in a position to come up with a solution when it happens. The fact that not all roommates share the same background makes it harder for them to understand each other well. So, as a resident advisor, it is vital that you take every chance you get in ensuring that their living together doesn’t create enemies. Avoid the mistake and use the tips mentioned above to facilitate roommate conflicts effectively.