Southeast Missouri State University

My roommate and I are not getting along... now what?

Living in a residence hall room can be one of the most rewarding AND challenging experiences in a student’s college career. Many college roommates become best friends and just as many do not.  The college roommate experience will be positive if both roommates allow for open and honest communication.  Just because roommates are very different does not mean they cannot get along. Effective communication is an important component to resolving any conflict.  If you do not express how you feel and give your roommate the opportunity for the same you are both likely to end up angry, hurt, and miserable in your living space. Below are some tips to consider when communicating with your roommate:


  • Be flexible. Consider what is reasonable rather than what is ideal.
  • Be willing to compromise, but be sure to assert your rights. Be mindful: compromise does not involve your way or the highway solutions!
  • Keep in mind what you value the most.
  • Address situations as soon as they arise but do take time to cool down if needed before addressing something that has made you very angry.
  • Be honest about your feelings.
  • Stay calm and choose your language wisely. “I” statements are very helpful in conflict situations.
  • Ask for clarification if you don't understand.
  • Make eye contact and be respectful.
  • Try to listen and understand the other person's perspective.
  • Be fair and cooperative.
  • Expect a successful resolution.
  • Talk face to face with your roommate!
  • Think about how you would like to be addressed if the situation were reversed.


  • Don't assume you know what the other person is thinking.
  • Don't gossip or involve others unnecessarily- go directly to the source. When you talk about your problem with everyone BUT your roommate it is likely to get back to them and make them defensive and angry before you even have the chance to talk
  • Don’t leave notes, e-mails, facebook messages or cryptic/passive-aggressive statuses, text messages, or any other form of communication that doesn’t involve face to face conversation!
  • Don’t minimize the issues. Joking has its time and place, but how can your roommate take an issue seriously if you make light of it?
  • Don’t overreact!
  • Don’t accuse. You roommate is likely to become defensive and you can lose control of the situation. An argument will be the conclusion.
  • Don’t act passively. A conflict will never get resolved if you do not speak up. Telling your roommate you are okay with something means you are okay with it!  Speak up if you are uneasy or dislike something that is occurring in your room!
  • Don’t expect a problem to resolve itself without saying anything!

The staff of Residence Life has developed a Roommate mediation document to assist students and staff in medicating roommate conflicts. Many conflicts are based upon a lack of communication and our medication process attempts to resolve misunderstandings and communication between roommates.

Utilizing Residence Life Staff

When direct conversation with your roommate(s) does not seem to be improving concerns within the room, your RA can help.  RAs are trained in effective roommate communication and conflict resolution.  They commonly act as mediators between roommates by providing an objective and impartial setting for residents to communicate and resolve their concerns.  The goal of the mediation process is to open the lines of communication and create a positive living experience for both roommates.  Please consider approaching your RA for help:

  • When you feel intimidated and need a supportive environment to articulate your rights in the room.
  • When you are such odds with your roommate(s) that you can't speak without fighting.
  • When your roommate(s) refuse to recognize that there is a problem even though it is apparent to others.
  • When a previously agreed upon solution is still not working after a period of time.
  • When you are concerned about your own health or safety or that of your roommate(s).
  • When you have continually tried to discuss the problem and cannot reach a reasonable solution.

If you approach your RA, you can expect the first question to be "Have you already talked to your roommate about your concern?”  If you haven't done so, the RA can provide with helpful suggestions as to the best way to initiate this conversation.  Your RA can even help you practice what you’d like to say and offer suggestions to make your conversation more effective and meaningful.

If you have spoken with your roommate(s) already, you can expect that your RA will spend some time getting both sides of the story.  In many cases, both roommates are feeling tension and have independently voiced concerns to the RA.  Once the RA understands your concerns, he/she will ask the roommates to sit down and talk with each other, listen, and reach an appropriate resolution.  In some situations, the concern may be resolved in one brief meeting, other concerns may require additional time and dialogue.  When appropriate, the RA may also refer the concern to the professional Hall Director (HD) for assistance in determining a resolution.

Moving Rooms

The Office of Residence Life does not force students out of rooms unless it is an extreme circumstance. Except for extreme cases, you must go through the mediation process before moving rooms.  This process is:

  1. Try to talk things out with your roommate
  2. Mediation with RA
  3. Mediation with HD

In certain irreconcilable situations, the HD may make the determination that you be given the option to move rooms.  If you decide you and your roommate cannot reconcile your differences after following the mediation process with the RA and HD you will be given information regarding available housing alternatives and will be able to decide whether moving rooms would be the best resolution.

How A Parent Can Help With Roommate Conflicts

We understand that living in a residence hall room can be one of the most rewarding AND challenging experiences in a student’s college career. This is especially true for student who in their first year of college or living with someone sharing a room for the first time in their lives. In many cases it is the parent who will hear about any roommate concerns first, often even before the student shares this concern with their roommate or staff member.

Some things to encourage your student to do when getting to know their roommate:

  • Be honest about your feelings, likes, and dislikes.
  • Be willing to compromise, but know which issues you will not compromise on and which ones you are willing to negotiate.
  • Give your roommate the respect, consideration, and understanding you expect in return.
  • Allow for conversations to take time and plan accordinglyᾰright before you or your roommate need to leave for class may not be the ideal time!
  • Discuss roommate problems with your roommate or hall staff only and not with just anyone who happens to be walking by (you may regret it later). 
  • Values, feelings, ideas, and even interests change, and that's OK!  Don’t be upset or hurt when your roommate changes... you may end up doing the same!
  • Create room and roommate expectations. Discuss what is and is not okay in the room.

Additional information and details on how a parent can help with possible roommate conflicts. Parent Roommate Letter