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How to De-Escalate 3 Types of Arguments with a Roommate Effectively

woman sitting on a chair inside white painted room


Living with someone can present certain challenges. The best way to get along with a roommate is to be flexible and compromising. It sounds easy, but it can be a challenge at times. If your roommate is messy, that’s an easy fix, speak to her and tell her to clean up her act!

If you have your own bedroom and bathroom, then you are likely sharing a kitchen and living room. If you share a bedroom, as well as the other spaces in the apartment, additional compromises maybe needed.

Arguments and disagreements are bound to happen between roommates who generally get along well. Read on to get some tips on how to de-escalate issues and arguments with your roommates to better keep the peace.

Addressing Houseguests and Visitors

If your roommate has a significant other who visits all the time, and not paying rent, that can surely be cause for concern. You may want to kindly bring up the fact that you are not comfortable with their partner being over every night, especially if you’re sharing a bedroom. You may consider suggesting that your roommate spend time at their partner’s apartment on occasion. 

If a kind talk doesn’t get the message out, it’s time to raise the stakes a bit. You really need to set a time to speak with your roommate, when their partner isn’t around. Calmly but sternly tell them that you aren’t ok with them being in the apartment all the time. If this cycle continues, you may tell them if they leave you no choice you will have to report their misconduct to the landlord.

If you don’t share a bedroom, then they may have more leverage to have overnight visitors. They may say that their bedroom is their space and as long as the significant other isn’t eating your food, damaging your property or causing you stress in daily living, it’s not your business. 

You can explain that it’s somewhat uncomfortable to have a third party in the apartment on the sofa or streaming Netflix on the sofa every night. If you remain calm, your roommate is likely to respond kindly. If things don’t seem to become resolved after a mature discussion, it may be time to bring the landlord in to settle the issue.

If someone is putting up a guest for a few days on the sofa, that is OK, in most cases. If the stay drags on for weeks, you are perfectly within your rights to request the houseguest leave the apartment.

Don’t be a Babysitter

It’s not your responsibility to keep tabs on your roommate and her comings and goings. Remember, it’s all in your message delivery. Speak your thoughts from a place of genuine concern. Tell her you worry that she’s meeting strangers online or perhaps not realizing how much she may drink without eating. Explain that you’re roommates and you care.

No one wants a babysitter or third parent keeping tabs and monitoring them -- whether on social media or from the sofa in the living room. If you are concerned that she’s drinking too much or putting herself in a dangerous situation, tell her that in simple terms.

Don’t cross the barrier of judging a roommate, this can cause all types of resentment and problems.  Judging your roommate and determining that your values are right and his or hers are wrong is a very dangerous barrier to cross. The best way to de-escalate a roommate’s judgment into your personal business is to simply say, “I appreciate your concern but I am old enough to make my own decisions.”

After your roommate expresses their point of view, respect their wishes.

Financial Obligations are Becoming an Issue

When you selected a roommate you probably picked a person who was financially responsible and seemed like they would be a good person to live with. They may have the means, but the issue may lie in responsibility. If your roommate is late paying utilities bills, late paying their share of the rent, or takes their time paying back money they owe you for shared expenses, it can be difficult to stay calm. Before you start a huge argument, try to speak calmly and don’t let this type of exchange escalate to a full-blown screaming match.

The first way to approach a late-pay roommate is to simply give them the benefit of the doubt. You can say “I’m sure you’re so busy with work, but I wanted to speak with you about some expenses. Two weeks ago, I paid the entire cable and Internet bill and I haven’t received the Venmo from you that we discussed. Do you think you can handle that today?”

If it’s the rent that is overdue, that can be a bit more serious.  You can approach it in this manner. 

“If we don’t get the rent paid by Sept. 3, we will be charged another $25 late fee. Let’s make sure we get the rent in on time this month. That $25 can cover our streaming services and a pizza night instead of paying the landlord more.”

If your roommate is having financial hardships, then a more frank discussion can be scheduled. Perhaps you can suggest a second job or gig like tutoring, food-delivery or dog-walking to earn a bit more money.

There’s not a person who hasn’t had financial struggles at some point in their life. It’s important to be compassionate and sensitive, but at the same time be pragmatic and explain that late fees, and accruing credit card interest don’t help.

Respect is Key

There are many types of scenarios that can cause escalated arguments among roommates. 

There’s no reason not to get along with a roommate. Realize they are owed space, respect and privacy. The best way to handle impending issues is to speak in a calm manner and not get emotional. When arguments escalate no one wins.

If you can’t work out the issues with your roommate, then seriously consider not re-signing your lease or subletting if you can. This is a last resort, it’s best to try and work out issues before taking this radical approach.