We find it helpful to use the following definition when trying to determine if a roommate conflict exists: wants in collision. This can seem as simple as “I want to go to bed at the same time as my roommate so that I am not awakened when she comes into the room after I’ve fallen asleep.” Sometimes, the collision involves value systems. For example, one roommate may feel quite comfortable having frequent visitors to the room—intimate visitors or groups of friends; while, the second roommate wants the room to be a safe haven from social interaction with others.
It is important to note that this definition makes clear that roommate conflicts are not a reflection of the character of either student involved. Rather, the conflict occurs because two different students hold two different views on what is happening in the room. More often, the conflict arises when one or both roommates do not have the confidence or communication skills to confront the problem.