People can be exceptionally difficult.
I’ve had some of the worst roommates and some thoroughly unfortunate interactions with people. Recently, I had to handle the worst roommate situation ever. I don’t really have words for how out of control the situation was. My roommate turned out to be the most hostile person I have ever met. It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility for her to try and damage my things or physically hurt me. Many of my friends had me stay at their homes to give me distance and keep me safe. It was definitely a period of conflict but the benefit of any conflict is that there are things you can take away that will make you stronger and more equipped to handle the next conflict that comes your way.
Here are a few lessons about conflict I have learned thus far in my life and I would like to share them with you.
Often when you’re in an awful situation the person you are dealing with, possibly even you, may be hostile, rude, unreasonable, disrespectful, or just plain mean. It can be hurtful and your first response is probably to lash back. Rather than react to the energy they are throwing at you, step back and have some perspective. It is important to understand your feelings and where you stand in a conflict situation, but more importantly, you need to try and understand where the other person is coming from. It’s not an easy thing to do but there is a strong likelihood that the reason the person is behaving the way they are isn’t actually because of you. If you are the one being hostile and/or unkind, stop and figure out the source of your feelings. Think about where you are coming from and shift your actions accordingly.
2. You drive you
No matter the reason for someone’s behavior, some behaviors are straight up uncalled for and unacceptable in any situation. No matter the reason for conflict, the best way to resolve it is to be calm and respectful of the other person. Additionally, you have a right to respectfully ask someone to treat you better. Remember, you don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to and as the saying goes, “you receive the energy you take to the table”. Basically, you can’t control the other person–just yourself, so do that.
3. Not all the blame is yours
In conflict there is a tendency to place a lot of blame and some of it is probably legitimate. Don’t take what isn’t yours though. When people are scared, angry, stressed, or just plain worked up, they have a tendency to turn others into scapegoats for their emotions. Take responsibility and own up to things you did do, but leave the rest at the door. You don’t need extra and unwarranted blame hanging on your shoulders. The best way to recognize inaccurate blame is to be cognizant of the situation. Do a little bit of self reflection and write things down if you need to. Talk to other people that are perhaps less biased and be very honest about your actions and those of others in the conflict. It’s ok to mess up–you are human, after all, but you don’t need to take all the weight and blame of someone else’s issues.
4. Don’t cut corners in communication
Communicate face-to-face as much as possible. Text messages, emails, and letters can get muddled, seem insincere, and really thwart progress in a conflict setting. If communicating in person is an issue or a safety concern then at least use phone calls instead. Too much can be lost in translation without body language, eye contact, and voice inflection, so avoiding digital and impersonal interactions can save you from further conflict.
5. Golden Rule
In conflict, behave, treat, and act toward the other person the way you want the other person to behave, treat, and act towards you. You want to be proud of the way you handled the situation. Act in a way you will be proud of later. The other person may not respond how you want but that shouldn’t change the way you behave.
Don’t think you always have to handle things yourself. Use resources you have available to you such as a counselor or mediator and remember that eventually conflict will end.
7. Know your limits
Know when to walk away. Some conflicts simply cannot be resolved and sometimes you need to recognize a toxic situation and draw a line. You don’t have to fix everything and not everyone that comes into your life is someone you need to keep. It’s ok to kick some people out.
My mantra in negative situations is, “the beautiful thing about time is it keeps going” and by this I mean that no matter where you are now, eventually something will change and probably for the better. Hang in there and good luck!
I know these 7 tips to survive roommate hell and other serious conflicts will help you out–good luck!