Social Question

nikipedia's avatar

Do you have good strategies for confronting people without being confrontational?

Asked by nikipedia (27300 points ) May 27th, 2012

Specifically, my housemates need to start doing the dishes more often and stop smoking in the house. In 11 years of living with roommates I have never lived with anyone who thought smoking indoors was acceptable, and at the very least I would have thought it was on the smokers to ask the rest of the housemates if it was ok rather than forcing us to have to ask them to stop.

I know I am going to have to just talk to them about these issues, but that is a lot easier said than done. So I am interested in the more general question about ways to confront without being confrontational. Experience, advice, suggestions?

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29 Answers

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well…gosh. Probably should have set down the rules before your roommate moved in. As it is, you’re just going to have to tell him there is no smoking in the house. You can say it without sounding confrontational.

wallabies's avatar

Whatever you do, don’t write a note and tape it to the ashtray. Just nicely ask them if they would take it outside. You can ask them nicely to do the dishes more often, but I’m going to guess – based on my experience with living with inconsiderate cretons – that the request will be ignored or forgotten. It just sounds like they aren’t great roommates and you would be better off living with someone else in the long term.

Coloma's avatar

There’s a saying that “you can’t set a boundary AND protect someones feelings at the same time.”
The smoking outdoors policy is the only healthy and considerate thing to do, and far as the dishes go, well, I think everyone should be responsible for doing their own dishes as soon as they are finished eating, unless you all decide to cook together in which case everyone should pitch in.
Yes, no passive aggressive stuff, be clear and direct, maybe call a “meeting” and say ” look, I feel there’s some things that need to be worked out here for the benefit of all.”

Then, just be firm, clear and direct…” I want you all to smoke outside ONLY, no exceptions, and everyone is responsible for doing their dishes ASAP, do you all AGREE?”
“If you do not agree then perhaps we need to figure out a new living arrangement because I am not willing to put up with your habits any longer.”

Thing is, when you set a boundary there HAS to be a CONSEQUENCE that you are willing to follow through on, otherwise you lose all credibility.

Good luck!

gailcalled's avatar

Who’s on the lease aka who’s in charge?

Trillian's avatar

You’re going to have to pick a good time and just ask for a sit down. If you haven’t set rules beforehand, you will probably have a bit more of a problem. The main thing for a potential conflict is to come up with a win-win solution. You need to sell it and position it to have both of you coming away feeling good about it. And of course, you focus on the behaviour, not the person.
That may be tough with an inconsiderate person who does not contribute to the cleanliness of the household. A lot is going to depend on what kind of person your housemate is. It may be a no-go, and time to look for a different housemate.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Or hell…just say it. I don’t see any reason to make it so serious and somber. Just say, “Dude. There is no smoking in the house!”

Blackberry's avatar

If it’s one person, ask them (while alone) if you can have a talk when they have the time. If it’s multiple people, ask them if you all can have a talk when they have the time. Then when you get them in the meeting, bring up your concerns.

gailcalled's avatar

And include them in the solution by asking how they might solve the problem or if there is anything you are doing that is annoying.

People usually respond much better to a short question than an ultimatum, no matter how justified.

elbanditoroso's avatar

Do it with humor. it’s hard to argue with you when they are laughing.

Blackberry's avatar

And who still smokes, anyway? The number of smokers has dropped drastically because people realize it’s a waste of health and money. There are literally no benefits.

rooeytoo's avatar

How many people live in the house? How many have their name on the lease? How many are upset by the behaviour? If there are a bunch and you are all opposed to the behaviour, then have a house meeting and everyone state their opinion. Theoretically, the majority rules!

janbb's avatar

If I were you, I would suggest you have a house meeting (maybe over a pizza) at which everyone could air some of the issues that may have come up. At that meeting, you could raise the issues you have and be open to listening to what others might have to say.

marinelife's avatar

I always like doing the confrontation in a neutral place. I rehearse what I am going to say (and think through their possible responses and my responses to those responses). I make sure the my tone is even (no emotion coloring it).

When I speak I use I statements not you statements. I also express how the behavior is making me feel. For example, when you smoke in the house, it makes breathing difficult for me and it makes the house stink. When you leave the dishes undone, I feel grossed out.

Good luck.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, humor…how ‘bout ’‘Ya know, the next time I smell cigarette smoke in the house I am going to shave somebodies head while they are sleeping. lol

tups's avatar

Hide their cigarettes somewhere really cool and then make it a treasure hunt with all kinds of cool traces and riddles. Then, the treasure should be their cigarettes blended and a note that says “smoke outside, you smoking thing”.

Michael_Huntington's avatar

@Blackberry Man you would be soooo surprised.
Can you get your landlord involved?

Blackberry's avatar

@Michael_Huntington Huh? I don’t get it…..

josie's avatar

Should have discussed it up front. Too late now. Ask nicely, but be prepared to move out.

Michael_Huntington's avatar

@Blackberry And who still smokes, anyway?
My first comment was directed towards that statement. I amy or may not be…you know dude, dude.

nikipedia's avatar

@gailcalled, I love that approach. Maybe I can frame it as telling them that the smoke has been bothering me, and ask if they can think of a way to make sure the smell doesn’t get into the house…

Sunny2's avatar

See if the other housemates agree with the no smoking rule so you can find out how much support you have.. If they do, have a meeting to discuss house rules. This should have been done when you all first moved in. But it’s never too late to discuss who is responsible for what and when. Others may have issues to bring up too. If everybody wants no rules about anything, be prepared to move.

nikipedia's avatar

@Sunny2, there are 5 housemates. 2 smoke, 3 don’t. The newest housemate began smoking in the house, and the other smoker seems to have joined in.

We are all pretty egalitarian and friendly. I can’t imagine there being a conflict over this, my main concern is maintaining that good and happy rapport while (as a more senior housemate) asking for what I consider to be a reasonable request.

gailcalled's avatar

One last thought. I would have a private chat with the two non-smokers. (Are they also the one who leave their dishes? If so, that mates it more complicated.)

I would deal first with the smoking issue, as that is the critical one. The shared domestic chores are a separate topic, unfortunately.

Sense the mood. If everyone seems still friendly and open to more discussion, bring it up. If not, I am out of ideas. Do your dishes and ignore the others, perhaps. That does not help the mess in the kitchen that can attract mice and insects.

Keep us posted.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Also, don’t expect it to be confrontational.

Sunny2's avatar

@nikipedia Sorry. Usually these things are talked through shortly after you all move in. I still say it’s time for a house meeting. At least discuss the idea of the smokers doing so outside the apartment. Either that, or you put up with anything that happens without complaining.

mattbrowne's avatar

By talking about my observations, my feelings, and my needs, avoiding the pronoun you at all times.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well? What happened?

nikipedia's avatar

I awkwardly knocked on the door one night while both smokers were in one of their bedrooms and said it smelled like smoke in the common area. They immediately apologized and promised to take it outside.

As for the dishes, I went out of town for a few days, and by the time I got back, the other housemates had somehow magically figured out how to use the dishwasher. Or my partner said something to them, not sure which.

Dutchess_III's avatar

That’s it? Well, yay! They were probably wondering what took you so long! Some people just gotta test the limits.

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