How to Have Difficult Conversations With Your Roommate

How to Have Difficult Conversations With Your Roommate
  • Opening Intro -

    Living with people isn’t easy. And sometimes, when important conversations need to happen to address issues or problems, you might wonder:

    How do I have difficult conversations with my roommate without making things awkward or hurting our relationship?


Even if your roommate isn’t necessarily a “friend” or “close acquaintance,” the fact of the matter is that the two of you do live together. And so, it’s in your best interest to navigate these tough conversations with wisdom, tact, and a healthy measure of planning.

Here are seven steps to help make difficult conversations with your roommate productive, positive, and successful.

1. Figure Out if This is Actually an Issue That Needs Addressing

Is this an actual problem, or are you just feeling emotional right now? Will you feel like this is a problem later? Is it possible that you’re just having a bad day today and your roommate just happened to step into the line of fire?

Sometimes, things that seem like a big issue at the moment can dissipate. They turn out to not be that big of a deal after you’ve had a bit of time to yourself, a good night of sleep, etc.

This is the very first step to take whenever you’re thinking about whether or not to address an issue. And this leads to our second tip.

2. Don’t Address the Issue Until You’re in a Calm State of Mind

If you conclude that this difficult conversation needs to happen, it’s vital not to have it while you’re upset or in a heightened state of emotion.

Living together isn’t always a seamless experience. But, the odds are good that your roommate isn’t trying to be difficult to live with. (Then again, that isn’t necessarily always going to make you feel any better about the situation either.)

It’s always a good idea to take a day or two to think about how to approach the conversation in the kindest way possible. This mindset can help save you and your roommate from what could otherwise turn out to be a very emotionally volatile confrontation.

3. Approach Your Roommate With a Positive, Problem-Solving Mindset

If you approach this difficult conversation with the roommate thinking:

“Wow, they are such a jerk. I’m really going to show them. I’m going to tell them off, and they’re never going to forget it.”

While that’s an approach that might get their attention … Don’t forget — you still have to live with this person after the fact.

A much better approach would be to think about how to have the conversation in a positive, productive manner. Instead of focusing on your roommate as the enemy, focus on the issue, and discuss how the two of you can resolve it together.

This is a team-building tactic that can make difficult conversations much easier and much less abrasive.

4. Tell Your Roommate Exactly What the Issue is

Don’t tiptoe around the issue or try to “hint” at it. Stay away from acting passive-aggressive. Instead, try coming out and being honest about what’s bothering you.

The absolute best way to talk about difficult things is to actually come out and talk about them.

If you’ve:

  1. Decided that this conversation needs to happen
  2. Already taken the time to calm down, and
  3. Delivered your perspective on the issue in a positive way

Then make sure that you go the full distance and explain exactly what’s wrong. If you don’t make it clear, you won’t be giving your roommate a fair chance to help you resolve the issue.

Honesty is essential here.

5. Communicate in a Kind, Respectful, and Straightforward Manner

While having the discussion, always remain kind and respectful. Avoid lashing out in anger, name-calling, or using pejorative terms.

Remember that this is a human sitting across from you and that they have thoughts and feelings of their own. Even if you don’t see eye to eye on things, they live in this space as well — and this is their home as much as it is yours.

6. Reiterate Your Boundaries

As you’re putting effort into making the conversation kinder and more respectful, also make sure: That you don’t allow the person on the other side to disrespect you or treat you in an unkind way.

If they start to get upset, call you names, or get an attitude with you, don’t hesitate to reiterate your boundaries. Remind them that this isn’t personal and that you’re just trying to resolve an important issue.

Let them know that you want to work together to fix this. The goal isn’t to have an argument that dissolves into name-calling or unproductive word-slinging.

7. Structure the Conversation so Your Roommate Feels Like a Teammate, Not Your Enemy

This is an overall tip for handling the entire conversation at every point. Make sure to keep it from sounding like you’re verbally attacking your roommate.

Once again, focus on the problem, and build teammate camaraderie between the two of you. You may have to do a bit of creative problem solving to figure out how to word the issue so that it doesn’t feel or sound like an attack.

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This is especially true if your roommate actually is causing the problem. You’ll need to find a way to let your roommate know that they’re causing an issue — without making them feel like they’re your enemy.

A little extra effort in this direction goes a long way in keeping tough conversations civil, productive, and successful.


Once again, living with people isn’t always easy. Remember that this probably won’t be a permanent living situation in your life. So make the best of it. Do what you can, and try not to be a jerk.

Also, make sure to maintain healthy boundaries — because after all, this is your space too. Most importantly, believe in yourself. You’ve got what it takes to handle this issue.

Now get out there and make it happen.

Author bio
Adam Marshall is a freelance writer who specializes in all things’ apartment organization, real estate, and college advice. He currently works with Copper Beech at Greenville to help them with their online marketing.

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