Tips for resolving conflict between roommates

Photo+by+Ben+Erickson+%2Fbenjamin.erickson%40marquette.edu

Photo by Ben Erickson /benjamin.erickson@marquette.edu

Brittany Carloni, General Assignment Reporter

Robert Weiss, professional studies professor and Marquette expert in conflict mediation, has a three-step approach to handling roommate disagreements that he calls PBR.

PBR stands for pause, breathe and relax. Weiss said it’s useful for conflicts where emotions dominate the conversation.

Conflict occurs for many, many different reasons, however, I think it’s important to learn to try and rise above the content of the conflict and deal with the process of the relationship,” Weiss said.

Weiss said beginning with a pause gives students the chance to separate themselves from their emotions. Once that is accomplished, students can focus next on breathing. Relaxation naturally follows.

“Instead of getting tense and pumping adrenaline into your body, you’re pausing a story, you’re breathing, which is getting more oxygen to the brain and you’re relaxing the body, which helps to relax the fight-or-flight reaction,” Weiss said.

After implementing the formula, Weiss said trying to smile will continue reducing tension in the body. Then the roommates can talk about options available to them.

Weiss said respect is an important part of addressing conflict between roommates because it helps continue the conversation and makes it easier to listen.

“Even if I don’t agree with what you want to do or the reasoning why you want to do it, it is still important to respect the dignity and worth of each person,” Weiss said.

If a roommate conflict seems impossible to resolve, Christine Harris Taylor, Title IX coordinator and former dispute resolution associate professor, said it’s important to immediately listen to underlying issues that aren’t being addressed.

“Most people are conflict-avoidant,” Harris Taylor said in an email. “They would rather ignore the issue than address it. As one of my colleagues would say, ‘conflict will end some way, somehow and some time.’”

Taylor said it may be beneficial to involve someone experienced with resolving conflicts to observe the underlying issues in a conflict between roommates.

“On the surface the issue may be that one roommate is a complete slob and their dirty clothes and dishes are all over the room or the apartment,” Harris Taylor said in an email. “However, the underlying issue may be that the other roommate feels disrespected or marginalized.”

Weiss said understanding why we get upset and using the ability to reason through conflicts without getting angry will help students see the best in each other.

“We’re at Marquette to get you an education,” Weiss said. “One of the things we can gain in our education is learning about how to get along better with each other.”