A successful framework for tough conversations with your roommate
At roommates.com, we are huge fans of the roommate relationship. What’s not to love? Lower living expenses, built in friends, and having a shared experience with someone are just a few of the benefits. And even within a good roommate relationship, some inherent challenges that can arise. In order to keep things peaceful and comfortable at home, you may have to have some tough conversations. We can help you navigate them.
Maybe your roommate constantly leaves the cupboard doors open, but that’s really your only complaint. Or perhaps the frustrations and stakes are higher – like, they’re always late paying their half of the rent, or have a significant other who stays over every night but isn’t on the lease, and never contributes financially. Whether big or small, roommate inconveniences at home can chip away at your joy, make you resentful, or worst of all – leave you vulnerable.
The best way to deal with mounting tensions, is to try and front-load your relationship for success before they even have a chance to grow. If you have clear conversations about expectations, roles, and boundaries up front, you’ll likely avoid larger problems later. But sometimes you simply can’t account for unexpected problems that will pop up… and that’s when you must have difficult conversations about the things that are bothering you. It’s a delicate dance learning how to approach these conversations in a way that will get results while still maintaining a good relationship.
Here's a framework you can use to structure those tough conversations:
Start by setting the stage for the conversation. This might involve scheduling a meeting ahead of time to talk, or simply finding a moment when you're both available. Once you're ready to start the conversation, begin by acknowledging the topic may be difficult or uncomfortable, but the relationship is really important to you so you want to be honest and work together. Go into the chat ready to be honest, but set an intention to keep your tone even, kind, and as neutral as possible. Avoid words that blame or attack, remembering fairness and diplomacy will get you much further than anger. This can help put you both at ease and create a more open and honest dialogue.
Next, provide context for the conversation. Explain your perspective on what has happened and lead to this discussion. For example, if you're bothered by your roommate's messiness, you could say something like, "I've noticed that the apartment has been getting pretty messy lately, and I wanted to talk to you about it."
Now explain how the issue is affecting you. Be clear and specific about how the problem is impacting your life. For example, if your roommate isn't paying rent on time, you could say something like, "When you're late with your portion of the rent, it puts me in a tough position financially."
State your goal for the conversation. Be clear about what you hope to achieve by talking to your roommate about the issue. For example, if you're talking about the messiness of the apartment, you could say something like, "I'd like to find a way for us to both contribute to keeping the apartment clean and tidy."
Offer a potential solution (or a few!) you think could work. Be open to suggestions from your roommate as well. For example, if you're talking about rent payments, you could suggest setting up a shared calendar to keep track of due dates and payments.
End the conversation on a positive note. Reiterate your goal and thank your roommate for taking the time to have the conversation with you. For example, you could say something like, "Thanks for talking with me about this. I'm glad we were able to come up with a solution together."
You can use this framework to help guide you through almost any difficult conversation. Just remember: Opening, Context, Impact, Goal, Solution, Conclusion. Want to see it in action? Here are a couple examples you can use or make your own.
What if your roommate is developing a pattern of not paying their rent or shared expenses on time?
Hey, can we talk for a moment? I want to bring up something that's been on my mind for a while.
I've noticed there have been some issues with paying rent and bills on time. I know we agreed to split these expenses evenly, but there have been times when you've been late with your portion, and it's starting to become a problem.
This is affecting me because it puts me in a tough position when the bills are due, and your portion hasn't been paid. I've had to cover your portion a few times, which has caused some financial and relational strain for me. I don't want this to continue, and I really value our relationship, so I think it's important we figure out a solution together.
My goal in bringing this up is to find a way to ensure that rent and bills are paid on time going forward. It's important we both take responsibility for these expenses and contribute our fair share.
I was thinking that maybe we could set up a shared calendar to keep track of all the bill due dates at a glance, and when each of us needs to pay our portion. We can even set up alerts so nothing ever sneaks up or gets missed. That way, we can both stay on top of things and avoid any late fees or missed payments.
I just want to make sure we're both on the same page about this. It's important that we communicate openly and honestly about financial matters so that we can maintain a healthy living situation.
If you need to address your roommate about not picking up after themselves in common areas, try this:
Hey, can we talk for a moment? I want to bring up something that's been on my mind a while.
I've noticed that there have been some issues with keeping the house clean. I know we both have busy schedules, but the mess is starting to become a problem, and I think it's important to address it.
This is affecting me because I feel uncomfortable in a messy environment, and I'm worried that it could lead to hygiene issues. I don't want this to continue, and I think it's important we figure out a solution that works for both of us.
My goal in bringing this up is to find a way to ensure we can both maintain a clean living space without causing any tension between us. It's important we both feel comfortable and as stress-free as possible in our home.
I was thinking that maybe we could set up a cleaning schedule we can both agree on. We can take turns doing specific tasks each week so the workload is evenly distributed. That way, we can both contribute to keeping the house clean and tidy. Or if you’d rather talk about hiring someone to come in and clean from time to time, I’d be open to that as well. Whatever works for both of us and is something we can both maintain.
I just want to make sure we're both on the same page about this. It's important that we communicate openly and honestly about keeping the house clean so that we can maintain a healthy living situation. I value our relationship and I don't want this to cause any tension between us.
By using this framework, you can approach difficult conversations with your roommate in a way that is productive and respectful. Remember to listen to your roommate's perspective, be open to compromise, and maintain a positive attitude throughout the conversation. With a little bit of effort, you can build a strong and positive living situation, where you both can thrive and relax.