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Roommate Relations

Living with a roommate can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your college career.  Whether you find a new hobby, learn a new skill, or become good friends, living with a roommate can be fun!  However, living with someone also has its challenges.  Conflict is a normal part of roommate relationships and it is important for these conflicts to be addressed by everyone living in the room/apartment.

The Office of Residential Life & Housing Services is here to assist you with any conflict you experience with your roommates/suitemates.  Below is a guide for students living in the NYU residence halls. This guide provides useful information that you can utilize in working through a conflict with your roommate.  Try to utilize some of these skills in speaking with your roommate and if you need assistance in navigating your roommate relationship further, contact your RA or Residence Hall Director.

In addition to the resources in your residence hall, the Office of Residential Life & Housing Services has partnered with the NYU School of Law to implement The Residential Conflict Management Program.  The Program offers comprehensive and confidential conflict management guidance. You can contact the Program by emailing

Before Arriving to Your Hall

It is normal for you to be excited and anxious about living with a new roommate.  Before arriving at your residence hall, you should consider reaching out to your roommate(s) and speaking with her/him/them on the phone.  This will give you an opportunity to get to know each other and begin to plan for your living experience.  Remember, it can be difficult to get to know someone over the phone so be cautious about making quick judgments about your new roommate(s) before meeting her/him/them in person.  Below are examples of questions that you and your roommate may want to consider discussing.

  • TV
  • DVD player
  • Microwave
  • Refrigerator (if not provided)
  • Stereo
  • Dishes/Pots and Pans
  • Be sure to visit for a listing of prohibited items such as air conditioners, halogen lamps, candles, etc.
  • Color Scheme
  • Posters
  • Shower curtain and bathroom rug
  • Who will bring what appliances?
  • If/How do we want to decorate?

Before you make the call to your soon-to-be roommate(s) it is important to think about your own personal needs so that you can express them accurately and openly when talking.  As mentioned before it can be both challenging and fun to live with someone else, so it helps to let them know from the start what you need and vice versa. If you are a freshman, you should also know that some of your preferences may change during the first semester. Some things to think about:

  • What are the key elements of that place?
  • How can you create a similar feeling in the residence halls?
  • How can you describe your lifestyle to a complete stranger?
  • What kind of environment or place makes you feel the most secure?

Great Expectations

Please keep in mind that everyone has different beliefs, values, experiences, communication styles, and expectations.  With that being said, you and your roommate may become the best of friends, or you may only see each other when you’re in your room. No matter how close you are, you have to work together to establish and maintain a positive living environment.  Having the right attitude can make living with a roommate a little easier for everyone living in the room.  The most important elements of living with a roommate include: 

  • Respecting your roommates
  • Being considerate of your roommates’ thoughts and concerns
  • Being willing to communicate and compromise
  • Having an open mind regarding your roommates’ choices

As soon as you get settled into your room, you should discuss your expectations honestly. The biggest conflicts often arise when expectations are not addressed from the beginning. Don’t put off talking to each other about your expectations, needs, quirks, and pet peeves. It is a great way to help manage conflict in the future.

Speaking openly about what you expect from each other and your personal habits is a vital step that many people skip especially if you are living with a friend or someone you already know. Some people think that if they get along well as friends, they will get along as roommates, however, often living with friends and not discussing expectations can cause tension.

Your Resident Assistant (RA) will provide you with a Resident Living Agreement form at your floor meeting.  This form will assist you in having these conversations with your roommates/suitemates.  In addition, when conflict does arise, it will be a tool you can use to begin the conversation.  

Cleaning the room or apartment is an area where roommates tend to disagree. To assist you in discussing your cleaning needs in your living space, we created two cleaning schedules that you can download and fill out.  These schedules will help you determine who should clean when and what needs to be cleaned.  Click HERE to download the cleaning schedule as a PDF. Or, if you would prefer a  spreadsheet, click HERE.

Getting Started

While these items are addressed in your Resident Living Agreement Form, below are some sample questions for you to think about.

  • When do you like to go to sleep?
  • Are you a morning or evening person?
  • What are your study habits?
  • Do you study with music?
  • What can be shared or borrowed?
  • What can’t be borrowed?
  • Should I ask before I borrow something?
  • Do we share groceries, etc.?
  • Do you mind if someone sits on your bed?
  • What are our expectations surrounding guests/overnight guests?
  • Where should I leave mail or messages for you?
  • How should we address problems?
  • What is your class, work, and extracurricular schedule like?
  • When does the door need to be locked?
  • Can I talk on the phone in the room, if you are here?
  • My pet peeves are…
  • I am passionate about…
  • I feel this way about drugs/alcohol…
  • When I am upset I will…
  • I like to joke about…
  • I do NOT like to joke about…

The Roommates Bill of Rights

As you create your list of guidelines, keep in mind that you have rights in your shared living space and that  your roommates have rights as well.  Below is a listing of those rights:

  • To read and study in one’s room
  • To sleep with as little disturbance as possible
  • To have respectful interaction with roommate(s)
  • To live in a maintained clean environment
  • To have access to one’s room at all times
  • To have personal privacy
  • To have guests who respect the rights of other residents
  • To speak openly about ideas, options, and grievances
  • To be free from physical and emotional harm
  • To be treated in a considerate and thoughtful manner
  • To expect cooperation within reason
  • To expect enforcement of residence hall and university policies

Conflict Happens

At some point, you and your roommate may disagree and conflict may arise.  Conflict is a completely natural occurrence. You may have different needs than those that you acknowledged at the beginning of the year, or you may feel that some of your rights as a roommate are being violated. When such instances occur it is important to revisit the Resident Living Agreement form you created at the beginning of the academic year. Whatever the cause, conflict happens so it is important to learn how to manage it constructively.
Conflict arises when two people perceive that they have mutually exclusive goals. That is, it seems that in order for one’s needs or goals to be met, the other’s needs must remain unmet.
The biggest conflicts are often rooted in annoying habits that have been intolerable (remember those pet peeves?) or are the result of poor communication. This is why discussing your expectations early on is so vital. However, when a conflict does arise it is important to discuss the problem as soon as it occurs. It is much easier to manage conflicts before they escalate.

Remember: A conflict is not a contest – there is no winner or no loser. The goal of managing a conflict should be to reach a compromise and create a solution in which both people’s requests/needs are satisfied on some level.

Tips for De-Escalating a Conflict

Conflict can make us feel uncomfortable and perhaps, angry.  If you feel like your emotions will prevent you from working through a conflict in a calm manner, it may be best to wait until you are feeling calmer.  Here are ways to identify if you may need to wait to address a conflict:

  • Breathe!
  • Speak more slowly and more softly.
  • Remind yourself that you can solve the problem.
  • Affirm and acknowledge the position of others.
  • Be respectful.
  • Apologize if you’re wrong. Accept an apology.
  • Try not to involve other people.
  • Don’t fight in front of other people.
  • Choose an appropriate time and place to talk.
  • Take a break if you need one.

Body language plays a role in conflict resolution. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Make and maintain eye contact.
  • Uncross your arms and legs.
  • Sit down.
  • Listen to your voice. Is it relaxed? In control?
  • Unclench your fists.
  • Take a long, slow breath. And another one.

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Talking Tips

-Use “I Statements” to express yourself. An “I Statement” is a way of telling the other person about your needs and feelings without putting the other person on the defensive. When people are put on the defensive, they often don’t hear what’s being said because they’re too busy coming up with a defense or a returning insult.
-Level with each other. “I feel X when you do Y because of Z, and in the future I’d like it if A, B, or C.” Example -- “I feel frustrated when you have guests over late at night while I’m trying to sleep.  In the future, I would like to discuss when guests can visit in advance.”

--Avoid words that blame:








Better not




Include words that create a partnership to help de-escalate the situation.


I think

What if


I feel


It seems like

I wonder

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Hearing is not Listening: 10 Ways to Be a Good Listener

Good listening is the cornerstone of managing a conflict. We all like to be heard; it makes us feel respected and validated. Listening also helps us to understand the nature of the conflict and gives us an opportunity to appreciate the other person’s point of view.

  • Stop talking. Everything else depends on this. You can’t listen if you’re talking.
  • Put the talker at ease.
  • Remove distractions. Don’t doodle, shuffle papers, or answer the phone. Close the door.
  • Empathize with him or her. See the other side.
  • Be patient. Don’t interrupt. Don’t walk away.
  • Control your temper.
  • Go easy on argument and criticism.
  • Ask questions. It shows you care.
  • Focus on what the person is saying, not on what you’re going to say next.
  • Pay attention.

Resources at NYU

Conflict is a challenging component of living with someone and you may find that you need a neutral third party to help you along the way. Try to talk to your roommate first. If you’re not making progress, ask your RA, Residence Hall Director or Residence Hall Assistant Director  for help communicating and resolving your problem.

You can also seek confidential guidance with your roommate conflict, by contacting the Residential Conflict Management Program. This program was created to assist students living in NYU residence halls with managing conflicts that arise.  The program can provide guidance for students who are experiencing conflict and can meet with students to assist them in reaching an agreement.  You can reach the Residential Conflict Management Program by emailing


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