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Workshop: Roommate Conflict to Problem Solving

The following is a post about an online workshop that happened last weekend.  I asked the participants if I could post their workshop on my website so that others would understand what an online workshop might look like and that the sessions are happening in privacy.  This is how two young women worked though the triangle problem solving diagram as found on How We Make Decisions and Change   which is a previously posted article.

Summer called me on the telephone because she had come home and found that someone had been in her bedroom and things were all shifted around and different from how they had been left for her day away.  She was very upset and found a stain on her new bedspread and it appeared to have been freshly washed and the bed remade. She was quite sure, by the smell, that her roommate’s unneutered male cat had sprayed someplace within her room also (she had left the door closed and strict orders that the cat was to stay out after a previous spraying incident shortly after her move into the apartment). While Summer waited for Anna to come home, she called me to vent her feelings and be prepared to confront Anna about what had happened to her new bedding and room.

The venting session went on for about 15 minutes, in that time I was able to clearly discern 4 basic ideas that were making up the overview of the situation.  I asked Summer if these were the areas of concern for her:  1) that the cat had gotten into her room and sprayed the bedding,  2) that Anna had lost her trust because she had let the cat into her room and had washed the new bedding without Summer’s knowledge and then not informed her,  3) that having an unneutered male cat that was spraying the apartment  was not humane pet care or sanitary, and 4) that by Anna not letting the landlord know she had a cat or by not paying the pet deposit the situation was leaving Summer responsible and accepting of this disrespect of the owner, the contract, and her  property.

Summer felt heard and relieved that we could pinpoint these 4 areas of concern so clearly.  She still did not want to have Anna upset and angry with her if she told the landlord and she did not want to have the continued problem and more ruined clothing and bedding. Summer’s first response was to call several other apartment complexes in town and look on the Internet to see if she could break her lease and move somewhere else and still stay within her budget.  This might make Anna even angrier with her as they both are on very tight budgets and had to really work to get a lease arrangement that would work within their schedules and they enjoyed each other’s company.  It was the darn cat which was making the problem.

Together we research and read over the list of basic human needs and identified those needs which were not being met and were important for Summer in order to remain in the apartment and on her tight budget. The needs were: Order and Cleanliness, Trust and Respect, and Communication and Connection.

By the time Anna arrived home, Summer was able to say this to her about the events of the day:
When I came home this evening, I found that my bedroom had been changed around and the bed remade, I could smell cat spray in my bedroom and through the apartment, I did not find a note or an explanation, and I have learned that I will be at fault (complicit) if the landlord finds out you have a cat and did not get permission or pay the deposit.

Summer continued by saying, my needs for cleanliness, trust and having friends over (will not come because allergic to cats and hate the strong odor)are not being met,  would you be willing to tell me what happened today and help me figure out how to get my needs met?

Anna was taken aback and shared right away what had happened during the day.  She had been excited because the new router for the Internet had finally arrived and they could have Internet access. Anna had gone into Summer’s room to make the connections on her computer and get them up and running. While there she had left the door open and her cat had come into the room, she did not know that the cat had sprayed her room, but in trying to get the cat out she had spilled a glass of orange juice on Summer’s bed.  Anna was upset because she knew it was all new bedding so she had run to the Laundromat and washed everything; the stain had remained and she was hoping if she made the bed differently Summer would not notice.  Anna felt very badly.

The two together worked out what they would do to correct the concerns and get needs met.  Anna would take the cat to her mother’s home while she was working out of town for about 10 days and she would take the comforter to the dry cleaners and try to get the spot out (I can report this worked and the orange juice stain is gone) She would pay for dry cleaning the mattress pad to remove the smell and buy a new one if that process did not work correctly. Anna would keep the cat in her bedroom when she was away and would scour the pooh box daily, purchase a gate for Summer’s room so that the door could be opened for air movement – cat would not be able to get into the room.  Anna would inform the landlord and pay the pet deposit with her next paycheck after her return from her trip and get the cat neutered.  Summer made note that she thought it was not a kindness to try and keep the cat closed in the bedroom all the time.

Summer can report that the requests and plans are being followed so far and is still concerned that her clothing does not smell fresh and nice when she goes to work, but says that the cat smell and pooh box smell has decreased as you enter the apartment.  She is washing all her clothing, shoes and cleaning her room. Summer will clean the whole apartment when Anna leaves with the cat.

She wishes Anna would inform the landlord about the cat and her intentions before she leaves for her trip and will see if that happens.  Summer is worried that she will be financially held responsible for the cat messes and is both pleased with the actions taken and optimistic that it will work out in a good fashion.  Both Anna and Summer were pleased not to have a “fight” with huge lingering feelings wandering around and were please with the process and the progress being made.

The format I used was from Marshall Rosenberg’s book Nonviolent Communications, A Language of Life  The list of needs are found on page 54 and 55 and I find the book a valuable resource to have near at hand.

The names have been changed and part of this process was done through emails and chat from off my workshops page of my website and part of the process was completed on the phone.  Venting one’s emotions is an important part of the process but they do not truly need to be vented on the person or animal that is the object and sometimes work out better if they are not.

I hope this was helpful and if so please make a comment and let me know – same goes for if it was not helpful.  I would appreciate your comments.

One Response to “Workshop: Roommate Conflict to Problem Solving”

  1. Lael Says:

    interesting article….