Avoiding Passive Aggressive Conflicts

Living with your best friends often starts off great, but quickly takes a sour turn. What’s the best way to handle these roommate conflicts? Communication is often the key to settling these issues. Setting up formal and regular house meetings from the start is the ideal way to open the lines of roommate communication. However, if you are past the early days of living together this can be difficult to establish. 

Things to consider when addressing an issue with your roommate:

Is it worth it? Is this issue really an issue, or is it just a difference in lifestyle preferences? Would being the one that always washes the dishes or takes out the trash be preferable to an uncomfortable conversation and the awkward aftermath? If this is the case it might be better take responsibility for this area and let your resentments go.

If it is worth it, be sure to proceed in a non-passive aggressive manner. This is often easier said than done. Some roommates become passive aggressive in an attempt to leave subtle hints that things need to change. Unfortunately, passive aggressive actions almost never lead to a happy living situation. Here are some tips to avoid participating in passive aggressive behavior:  

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(1) Don’t leave notes. Maybe you and your roommates are on busy schedules. Maybe you're avoiding each other because you know there are issues. Maybe you communicate better in writing than orally. These are NOT good reasons to address your issue with a note. The most you should tackle with a note, text or email is to schedule a sit down meeting, over coffee or tea.

(2) Communicate clearly and effectively. Begin by understanding that this is uncomfortable for everyone involved. Your roommate probably understands that there is an issue, and if not hopefully knows now. Don’t be aggressive, accusing or hurtful. Frame the conversation to be about you and your feelings. For example, “You probably don’t realize this, but I get really cold at night and you tend to leave your window open when you leave for the weekend. I would really appreciate it if you could try to be mindful about closing it when you leave.” Instead of “You leave your window open all the time and now I’m freezing at night.” This response is accusing and aggressive, in contrast to the first which assumes the best of your roommate.

(3) Always assume the best. Assume your roommate does not realize that this is an issue. Would you do something on purpose to annoy your roommate? Maybe, but hopefully not. It’s best to enter these conversations assuming the best of your roommate.

(4) Communicate both ways. Give time for your roommates to address any issues that they might have with you. Be careful not to get stuck in a loop of defensive behaviors. Accept any criticism and make a strong effort to improve your common living situation. 

(5) Follow up. Once you’ve addressed the first issue this is a good time to set up house meetings. Everyone is human we all have issues and pet peeves. A monthly house meeting is a good time to get them out in the open. After you’ve addressed the issue on hand, set up these meetings to have frank conversation about your shared lifestyle.

(6) Move on. If the issue needs to be brought up again do it. However if it is resolved let any resentment over it go. Everyone feels better in a living environment that is resentment free.

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