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MUSC Off-Campus Housing

Discussion Topics and Sources of Conflict

Discussion Topics for Potential Roommates

For many students, having a roommate is not a new experience.  You may have had great roommates and you may have had difficult roommates, but either way, each new roommate is a different relationship.  Learning to adjust to each other’s differences, without infringing on one another’s freedom, helps create a positive environment for your educational pursuits.  The most important factor is good communication.

One of the most important steps of your roommate search is interviewing/talking with potential roommates.  Listed below are a few things you should discuss so you’ll have no doubts about each other’s likes and dislikes:

  • Your study habits
  • Importance you place on neatness
  • Feelings about drugs and drinking
  • How you like to relax
  • Music preferences
  • Feelings about loaning and sharing things
  • Thoughts on religion, politics
  • How you would like to decorate the apartment
  • Feelings about overnight guests – long and short-term
  • Feelings about splitting costs of shared items (ex: furniture, appliances, groceries, household items, etc.)

Frequent Sources of Conflict

Having a roommate can be both a rewarding and challenging experience. You hope to have a roommate who shares your interests and good times, but sharing an apartment can sometimes result in a few problems. Experience shows that roommates who get along well usually work at it.

Despite the best preparation, there will be times when you and your roommate disagree about your living environment. Here are some common conflicts:

  • Guests and visitors
  • Cleaning schedule
  • Sleep schedule
  • Time for parties
  • Use of personal property
  • Security (locking doors and windows)
  • Pets
  • Paying bills on time

Before confronting your roommate with problematic issues, try to identify those issues for yourself. Be clear as to why they are a problem for you. For more help with solving roommate conflicts, read over Strategies for Conflict Resolution below.

Strategies for Conflict Resolution

Step 1 - Communication: Effective communication is essential for the resolution of a roommate conflict. The parties involved must be free to express themselves. Make an effort to allow the other party to speak without interruption, to listen actively and with patience, and to encourage full discussion of the problem at hand. Avoid placing blame. Use statements such as, "I feel..." rather than, "You...". Concentrate on specific problems and avoid emotional confrontations.

Step 2 - Definition: In order to discuss the problem, you must first define it. Be specific in your definition of the problem. Talk about it together to make sure each of you clearly understands the other's position. It may be that there is merely a misunderstanding.

Step 3 - Solution: Brainstorm together to come up with different solutions, allowing each person to express their ideas.

Step 4 - Education: Review and evaluate the solutions you have generated. This is the time to negotiate. Be clear about the ways in which you are willing to compromise. Decide together on the best solution.

Step 5 - Taking Action: After you have settled on the best possible solution, you must agree on the best method to put it into action. Be very clear about how it will work; describe it in specific terms. Don't become discouraged or impatient, and keep the lines of communication open.

Step 6 - Check Back: Agree to meet together in a week or so to check on your plan of action. Is it working? Is everyone satisfied? If problems continue, contact the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) office at 792-4930 to arrange to meet with a mediator free of charge.

Keep in Mind: Communication is the key to successful conflict resolution!


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