Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Battling arguments

Hannah Locke and Annabelle Tarek pose as roommates.  (Sarah Doremus/Collegian File Photo)
Hannah Locke and Annabelle Tarek pose as roommates. (Sarah Doremus/Collegian File Photo)

Roommates are essentially like year or semester-long romantic relationships. You sleep in the same room. You share some things. You come home to each other at the end of the day. And just like real relationships, roommate relationships have their ups and downs with problems that can be solved or avoided.

“You had an argument with someone you love. Now what?” Elizabeth Bernstein asks in her Wall Street Journal article, “Don’t Apologize So Fast. ” If someone loves another person or has to deal with them on a regular basis, they often don’t want to hurt them. A lot of people try to avoid conflict, quickly apologize and move on.

Bernstein argues that is not the way to do it. From years of roommate and life experience, I agree. If you care about a person, you want what is best for him or her and your relationship as a whole. This often means avoiding confrontation.

Whatever the problem may be, ignoring it really won’t help. It only makes it worse, because anger tends to build up and people explode over little things that seem larger because of other issues that were suppressed.

“It is crucial when repairing a personal rift to address the underlying issue,” Bernstein said. “Fail to reach a resolution on the argument itself – not just the hurt feelings it caused – and you will end up fighting again in the future about the same thing.”

It’s best to avoid the never-ending circle and behind-the-back complaints. “Even worse: You’ll likely end up arguing about the argument,” Bernsetin said. And let’s face it, that doesn’t get us anywhere.

If there isn’t a conflict in a long-term friendship or relationship, I would be concerned. Things can only be perfect for so long. You might get along wonderfully, have the same interests, the same habits, the same living patterns, but as Hal Shorey, a clinical psychologist and associate professor for the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania, said in Bernstein’s article, “The biggest thing in making up is to understand that conflict is normal in a relationship.”

You can handle one person for only so long, no matter who he or she is.

Depending on personality, people feel differently about arguments. Some are fine with confrontation and others hate it. I would rather be told the truth and hate what I’m hearing than be lied to in order to cover it up. Hearing the truth gives me something to work on to better myself, especially if I didn’t know it was a problem beforehand. I don’t enjoy having emotions bottled up inside and would rather talk them out before more problems arise.

According to Shorey, there are five steps to making up after an argument, and these go for any relationship, no matter how strong it is. Wait to talk until you both are no longer upset. Give up the idea of being right. Don’t focus on the details. Focus on how you feel. Verbalize your understanding of how the other person feels. Quash any impulse to defend yourself. Accept that it will take a while to feel better. Set a time to check in and monitor progress.

At first glance, all of these seem obvious and somewhat childish. I don’t want to say the classic, “I feel X when you do Y.” “I feel” statements seem so elementary school, yet if you nip the problem in the smallest bud, it will be solved faster and hopefully with the least amount of angst.

The first step is an important one because when both parties are heated, someone is bound to say something that would be harsher than if they were calm. This could make the argument even worse and lead to more damage that has to be repaired. When you’re calm, it is easier to look at the conflict objectively.

Perspective can skew how people view a situation, so it doesn’t make sense to try to be right about the details. The best is to focus on feelings. “What can never be wrong is how the other person feels,” Shorey said. If I’m sad and another person is happy about the same thing, one of us cannot be blamed for the way we feel because that’s the way it is.

If one person likes to avoid conflict and the other doesn’t, it’s important for the one who doesn’t to take control of the situation. Put them in an uncomfortable position. It’s already uncomfortable, so at that point it might as well be solved. It’s okay to be selfish. Put yourself first. Your happiness is most important because you’re the one who you have to live with the most, and really, always. If you do what you feel is right, multiple parties besides just yourself will benefit.

This concept goes for both men and women. However, according to Bernstein, “Research shows that these approaches typically break down along gender lines. A 2003 study in the journal ‘Personal Relationships’ – one of the largest on the topic to date – found that, across 62 cultural regions worldwide, men reported higher levels of attachment avoidance relative to women. There are always exceptions, of course. But, in general, men seek to avoid negative emotions and conflict more than women. Women like to talk through problems. Men want to move on.”

This follows typical gender roles of men being “manly” and “tough,” while women prefer to talk about feelings and figure things out.

In college, we form relationships unlike any others. We live with people, we eat with them, study with them, party with them – the list goes on and on. The point is that we are constantly surrounded by others, whether or not they are our best friends, acquaintances or complete strangers. It is up to us to decide who we want to be close to and remain friends with after college.

After these four years, it takes much more effort to keep in contact with friends who aren’t a 10 minute walk across campus. It is important to maintain these relationships through the ups and downs in the most civil and productive ways possible.

Karen Podorefsky is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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