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nikipedia's avatar

Can you give me advice on this roommate conflict?

Asked by nikipedia (27338 points ) November 19th, 2010

My roommate and I were forced to move to another apartment in August because our old building was torn down.

Moving was really difficult. She owns literally about ten times as much stuff as I do. And of course there is a lot of community property (couch, TV, kitchen supplies) that I guess we co-own.

I moved everything I owned before she started moving. (She was out of town.) When she got back into town, I had to work during the day, but I came home and helped with what I could during the evenings. That meant she ended up moving some community property while I was at work, but I helped her with many things that were specifically hers in the evenings.

And she has been mad at me ever since. This was three months ago, and we have basically stopped being friends (which we were before the move). She now wants to have a “sit down” to discuss the move.

I agree with her we need to have a discussion, and this is the most adult way to handle it. My problems are: (1) I think she totally misperceived how much I actually did during (and after) the move and (2) Even if I had slacked off and let her do more than her share, it is insane to me to stay mad about it three months later.

So what is the most diplomatic way for me to handle this conversation? I am dreading having it and considering just offering to move out when we do talk.

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21 Answers

wundayatta's avatar

See this question. Lots and lots of ideas about how to initiate difficult discussions.

iamthemob's avatar

Dealing with people who are, or who you think are, unreasonable is always incredibly difficult. I find it best, for me, to try to suppress that feeling as much as possible, and approach the situation as if they have a point.

Lay out for her everything that you did, and how many hours you did it. Try to err on the low side in your estimation, if possible. Then tell her that you’re not saying that this is significantly more, equal to, or less than what she did during the move. This will hopefully defray the whole “yeah but I did this this and this” counter.

Tell her that the problem is that neither of you are going to be able to say if one or the other really did way more than the other. And if she agrees or disagrees with that, there’s no way to remedy it. So if it went wrong, you can say it was a bad situation, and that everything was rushed, and next time something like this happens you both should sit down and plan what you’re going to do to make sure it can happen again.

Blame moving. Moving sucks and always ruins everything.

Trillian's avatar

Remember to address “behaviour” and not the person. Send “I” messages; When you do this and such, I feel….
Every time you respond to anything she says, count to ten before you open your mouth. Do not be goaded into speaking in haste.
Outline your points before you sit down, like what you’ve brought up here. Write down what you did for the move in detail. Be ready to hear something that you did not think of; this is from another person’s perspective. Don’t let it throw you or put you on the defensive. Don’t be afraid to say “I never thought of that” or “I didn’t realize…”
Good luck.

casheroo's avatar

I think the sit down is a good idea, since obviously she is still stewing on it. Just let her speak, and then explain your side. You did as much as you could and then had work. What were you supposed to do? I also don’t see why she is so angry about having to move things, did she have no help at all lifting the big items? I’m sure she had a friend or two.
I’d just apologize to her for feeling that you didn’t do enough, but you had done a lot then had work and didn’t think that would upset her so much.
I think in a roommate situation, saying sorry will make things run smoother for both of you.

nikipedia's avatar

Ugh. I know you guys are right but I’m so irritated it’s hard for me to go into this without my hackles raised. Her way of expressing anger over this has been to constantly nitpick me for the past three months, during which I’ve bent over backwards trying to be the perfect roommate, and at this point it seems easier to just tell her to eff off.

Also, @casheroo: that’s what really gets me. I had asked a friend of mine (who she’s never met) to come by with his truck and help move our living room furniture, and he ended up moving most of her bedroom for her by himself! But she’s still stewing away….

misstrikcy's avatar

I think what @Trillian suggests is spot on, but as you say it is going to be very, very difficult to have this discussion when you’re hackles are raised. Especially when an issue has been left to stew for so long.
Have you thought about writing a letter to each other? It may sound a bit daft but it can be really helpful, certainly as a starting point to a discussion.

trailsillustrated's avatar

sounds like this friendship has burned out. She needs to get over and move on. I’d start looking for a new place

marinelife's avatar

Don’t dread the talk. Welcome it as a way to clear the air. Three months of living with someone who is mad at you is appalling.

First, let her have her say since she is the one initaing the talk.

Acknowledge that it was difficult because she was out of town at first. Then, simply remind her of what you did during the move.

I would not offer to move out until you see where you can get to in the conversation.

tinyfaery's avatar

Just move. Do you really want such a petty person for a friend/roommate? What is she, 5?

iamthemob's avatar

@psychocandy – Moving turns most good people into five-year-olds.

MissAusten's avatar

A lot of good advice above, and I just want to add: If you take the high road and apologize to clear the air, you are under no obligation to go back to being her friend. You can live together peacefully without socializing or being biffles. That’s what the kids are calling their best friends for life these days, you know.

Of, if knowing what kind of petty person she turned out to be makes you unable to live with her even after having an adult conversation (or if she is incapable of having an adult conversation and just wants an excuse to tell you off), maybe you can quietly start the search for a new place. Not fun, but probably worth it to get away from a living situation that is going to cause you stress. Your home should be your sanctuary, not a place you end up avoiding because your roommate is childish.

YARNLADY's avatar

One important thing in a discussion of this nature is to let her talk herself out. Don’t react or answer back, just listen and pay attention. When she is done, ask her what she wanted you to do differently. Let her do most of the talking. You are already at odds with what you expect to hear, so give her a chance to be clear.

Now, when it is your turn, address the problems she mentioned, and don’t get carried away with rebutting what she didn’t say, it would just be confrontational. As mentioned above, saying “I didn’t know you felt that way” is a valid answer.

nikipedia's avatar

@marinelife (and others): Any advice on being a fair and good listener when one is feeling angry, irritated, and defensive? I want this to be a productive discussion but that seems hard right now…

iamthemob's avatar

Take a break or two if at all possible when you start to feel yourself get worked up. We all know what that feeling is. If you have to pretend to start smoking, excuse yourself for a cigarette and take a walk around the block.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Let her vent through the talk so you can hear what she’s been keeping to herself all this time and respond to the things that make sense. I agree with others who say moving can turn people ugly, it sucks, it never seems evenly done between people and schedules, blah blah. If you two hear each other out and she eases up on the tension then you have a good way to go but if she continues to be bitter then I’d plan to move the hell away. Nothing’s worse than feeling on pins and needles when you come home to what’s supposed to be a comfort/safe space. Ergh.

marinelife's avatar

@nikipedia Why do you feel defensive? You haven’t done anything wrong. As for being angry and frustrated, that is understandable. You might try writing out your feelings before the talk and then tearing it up.

Just tell yourself that she was once your friend, and she has a viewpoint too. Even if you don’t agree with it.

Tell yourself that the least that you can do is listen to her. That is what you would want if you had a grievance with someone.

Tell yourself that the current situation is bad and that this talk can only improve things.

Good luck. Let us know what happens.

YARNLADY's avatar

@nikipedia Staying calm while feeling angry and defensive requires a lot of practice. Just try to remember that you actually do like this person and you want to resolve the issue. Neither of you deliberately hurt each other.

bobbinhood's avatar

One thing that will help you manage to listen is to focus on understanding where she is coming from rather than focusing on how you feel about what she’s saying. Your emotions will be there, but choose not to focus on them and not to plan what you will say next. It will help if you try to listen to what she feels rather than just to the facts she presents since she seems to be operating largely out of her emotions.

nikipedia's avatar

Well. She is still mad about how things went during the move. And then she complained about general chore things, and basically said that I was inconsiderate. And I told her I constantly try to be considerate, and if that wasn’t working for her I should just move out. So I’m going to talk to the housing office Monday.

iamthemob's avatar

As long as that’s what is going to make you’re life easier in the end – but man, that kind of sucks.

Thanks for the update.

RiaAmp's avatar

You’ve gotten lots of great advice here. No doubt, you are someone who avoids conflicts or you wouldn’t have put up with this for so long. Making sure she had time to vent, and keeping your statements as “I statements” are great techniques. One technique I haven’t seen suggested is to paraphrase what she says. It does seem contrived but it can really help bring down the temperature. You listen and then you say, “So what you are saying is that you….. [fill in the rest] Did I understand you correctly?” only after being sure that you understand what she said should you respond. Likewise, have her do the same thing. I also think you need to say at some point, “I don’t understand staying mad for three months.”

Sometimes it happens that because the physical layout is different from one apartment to another, the way the old relationship worked can’t work in the new one. My guess is that there are other issues your roommate is having aside from the move and the move is the on the surface.

Do look forward to clearing the air. Be excited that you can get past this stuff.
Please let us know what happened.
Good luck.

P.S. When my book is published next spring there’s a whole chapter on managing conflicts. More at www.sharinghousing.com

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