They say the worst thing you can do for a friendship is to become roommates. And it makes sense. Michael I. Norton from the Harvard Business School and his colleagues found that the more you know about a person, the less you like them. So now that you’ve figured out that the “happily ever after” is over, what’s next? Here are 7 tips on what to do when you (inevitably) encounter roommate conflict:

Assess the situation

Figure out whether the issue is small or non-negotiable. Perhaps she never refills the soap…or toilet paper…or water filter. Maybe the “sharing” of shampoo, snacks and leftovers is a little too one-sided. Perhaps you’re the only one who cooks…ever. These are all legitimate issues that need to be aired to achieve resolution.

Focus on a solution

Passive-aggressiveness aside, it’s time for a tough conversation. First, identify what you want to accomplish in this discussion. Some ideas for tried-and-true ground rules that tend to ward off repeat roomie offenses: Create a shower schedule. Agree on who will buy what cleaning materials and toiletries. Write out a chore list divvying up tasks evenly. Sometimes just realizing you have options can help.


It’s not all about your agenda. There are two sides to every story. Stave off defensiveness and go into the conversation with open ears and an open mind. Ask questions to clarify when needed: Do I really snore? Do you feel I don’t wash my fair share of dishes? Prove you’re listening by repeating back what you heard. And be sure to acknowledge their feelings.

Take an honest look inward

Before sitting down to talk, make sure you’re not upset at someone else. For instance, was your boss tough on you this week? Did you just have a fight with your significant other? This can leave you primed for misdirecting pent-up frustrations toward your unsuspecting apartment roommate. Also, as obvious as it seems, take inventory of your physical well-being: Are you’re hungry or tired? Address that first.

Keep emotions in check

By virtue of familiarity, roomies have a greater comfort level with each other (i.e., freely vent grievances). If serious conversations historically tend to escalate, try meeting in a public place to keep things civil. Does it irk you to no end that she watches loud movies when you’re trying to sleep or that she never shuts the cabinet doors? If at any point during the conversation you start seeing red, you both need to take a step back. Re-visit the issue in a calmer state once a bit of time has passed.

What if it’s a bigger deal?

Some issues need firm boundaries with consequences. Is she consistently not putting up her share of the rent and utilities on time? It’s time to set some ultimatums. And if no agreement can be reached and you’re opting to move, remember to check the terms of your rental agreement first to see if you’re both bound to the lease.

Release what you can’t control

The essence of peace is realizing what you can control and what you can’t. You can control yourself and what behaviors you’ll tolerate – and which ones you won’t. You can’t control your apartment roommate. Know your options and make a level-headed decision that directly addresses the issue. And then move on with your life.

Find Your Own Space