Hold the Drama: Resolving Household Disputes

post it note saying 'it's your turn to take the bins out!!'

It doesn’t matter who you are, living with people can be complicated. It’s normal to find it stressful, but how can you avoid that turning into a blazing row, or bad atmosphere?  

When you live with people there’s always going to be something you don’t agree on, or behaviour that gets on your nerves. It may be that even though you’re living with your best friends, you’ve realised they have habits in the house that wind you up, or you may have ended up with random people who think very differently to you about house matters. 

Follow these tips below to resolve your household disputes in a friendly and productive way.  

What’s the problem? Communicate openly and honestly 

Ever heard of the passive aggressive post-it note? Well put your pad down and think about how you would like to be told if it was the other way around. Although it can feel awkward to talk about issues you have with someone, it’s better to go directly to them in a friendly way, rather than do it on the sly and let the conflict build. 

Take time out: try to stay level headed 

If you’re angry, stop typing that message about the messy kitchen. When our emotions are heightened we don’t tend to think clearly or say the nicest things so it’s best to not message straight away, but instead take some time to calm down and think more rationally about the problem.

One way is to write out your message in full, get all your feelings out, then don’t send it. When you’re calmer you might be relieved you waited and gave yourself the chance to change your mind about the exact words or sending at all. 

Is it a conversation or an accusation? 

When we feel accused, we get defensive. This never leads to a productive conversation, and can even lead to a pantomime-esque back and forth of “oh yes you did”, “oh no I didn’t”. 

It’s important to not use accusatory language such as “you did” or  “you always this” and “you never that”, or “it’s your fault”. Try talking about how you feel about what has happened, using starters such as “I feel upset when I see this…” or suggest a solution to the problem: “could you in future try to…?” 

Listen to what they have to say 

It’s easy to look like you’re listening, but are you really? Consider what the other person’s feelings might be in the situation, and hear out what they have to say about why it might have happened. Try to go into a conversation with an open mind about how to resolve it, to help you listen to another point of view.  

Develop a plan together and set some rules 

Having an agreed set of rules to follow in your house can be a good way to make sure it works for all. Including the entire household in discussions on rules and cleaning schedules will help you reach a point where everyone is pulling their weight, and knows what is their responsibility.  

Pick your battles 

Sometimes we need to step back and think, is there a need to make this a big deal? Someone has skipped their turn taking the bin out – is it easier to take it out yourself and lead by example, or to leave it in there on principle?  This is completely your decision, and you shouldn’t let people take advantage of your generosity. However, don’t let small things that take a few minutes to fix get out of proportion, and hopefully, your housemates will do the same for you one day.  


If you ever need any advice or support when living on or off-campus at University, the College and Community Life Team is here to support you. We can help to informally resolve disputes and assist with these difficult conversations for households, or work with you as an individual to provide advice if you prefer.  Contact us on cclteam@kent.ac.uk.

Written by Josh Turner, Community Life Officer, 12.11.21


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