Say This, Not That by Ilana Kukoff and Jessica Huddy

Handling Conflict with Your Roommate

Dear Ilana and Jess: I’m moving back in with my college roommate next week, and I’m dreading it. We argued a lot last semester. How can I curb this? – Lenny

Dear Lenny: Sharing close quarters highlights a million little things that can lead to conflict. To keep the peace, there are a few, important things we recommend -

First, set ground rules. The best medicine is prevention, as they say. Leave little room for conflict by setting clear cut expectations and ground rules from Day 1. These rules should cover a number of things — especially the things you wouldn’t expect to negotiate. Think about the conditions you need to feel comfortable in your living space. Ask yourself, and ask your roommate: when can we keep the TV on and when do you want it off? Are we comfortable with significant others spending the night? Can I play music through my speakers or should I use headphones? Let your answers guide the boundaries you set and rules you agree to. It can be beneficial to write these rules down and make your own “roommate contract.”

Talk to them. Communication is key for any good relationship, and that includes the relationship you have with your roommate.

Setting ground rules is not the same as following them. All relationships require upkeep, and that means revisiting expectations. If your roommate breaches contract, speak to them directly. Enter this conversation calmly; don’t engage if you’re too angry to be civil.

Stick to the facts. Once the two of you are cool enough to speak, talk about the facts, not your opinions. One of the benefits of a roommate contract is that it eliminates ambiguity and makes it harder to backpedal. When airing your grievances, be as specific as possible. It’s helpful to share examples of when and how your roommate upset you. The more evidence you have, the harder it is for them to dispute your claims. Most importantly, bring up each issue as it arises; don’t ignore your frustrations until they accumulate and you explode.

Finally, and if need be, get your RA involved. Sometimes, we can’t resolve our conflicts on our own and we need to enlist the help of a mediator. There are plenty of people who need to make a change when it comes to housing. If you see that this relationship just isn’t working out, it’s time to find a better match.

Say This: “[Roommate's Name], when we moved in, we agreed that we’d only have guests until 10:30. In the last week, your boyfriend/girlfriend has been here on Monday until midnight, Wednesday until 1:00 AM, and Thursday until 1:00 AM. It’s really affecting my schedule. Can we please talk about this?”

Not That: “Why do you even need to hang out here? Can’t you go to his/her room?”

Say This, Not That is based on the work of Cognition Builders: a global, educational company headed by Ilana Kukoff (Founder & CEO) and Jessica Yuppa Huddy (Chief Learning Officer). Everywhere from New York City to California to Shanghai to Zurich, the Cognition Builders team is called upon by A-list entertainers, politicians, CEOs, and CFOs to resolve the conflicts that upend everyday life. When their work is done, the families they serve are stronger than ever. With their new book, Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter Kukoff and Yuppa Huddy have selected the most common conversational mistakes parents make, and fixed them. For more information, please visit: To purchase Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter visit: