MSU Student Housing Cooperative

The Michigan State University Student Housing Cooperative (MSU SHC) is a non-profit organization providing a low-cost housing option for students at MSU and surrounding schools. There are more than 200 members in 15 houses across the East Lansing area. Houses vary from five to 29 members, each with their own character and history. 

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Tactics for Conflict Resolution

How Conflict Arises in the Co-ops

  • Conflict is bound to happen in our co-ops. We live in close quarters with lots of people and share everything from our bathrooms, kitchens, common spaces, to bed rooms.

Conflict is inevitable, but it’s not inherently bad--

  • Think of conflict as natural and healthy, rather than a negative indicator of group vitality. If conflict is not regularly surfacing you either have a dead group or are not dealing with serious issues.

  • “Show me a group that claims to have no conflicts and I’ll show you a group that’s not paying attention.”

  • Paying attention though, does not get you out of the ditch. It only informs you that you’re in the ditch.

  • In order to have healthy relationships, we need to know good tactics of addressing conflict so that we can grow together. A community that can learn from our differences and respectively disagree, will ultimately lead to a stronger and healthier house culture. 

Internal Resources Available to Resolve Conflicts:

  • House Membership Officer

  • Vice President of Membership (vpmembership@msu.coop) 

  • Vice President of Education (education@msu.coop)

  • Member Services Coordinator (memberservices@msu.coop)

  • Health and Wellness Committee

Stages of Conflict Resolution in the Co-ops:

The housemate above you keeps you up night after night with their loud music;

Your wellbeing is beginning to suffer and your school work will soon follow. Is it time to go to the Board? No.

  1. Direct Dialog

    • This is you taking the initiative to talk in a safe space with the person that you’re having a conflict with. Talk to them, to tell them how you’re feeling. Ask them how you could compromise.

    • Things to keep in mind when initiating a conversation with a housemate about an issue:

      1. Ask yourself: Do I feel traumatized by this member? Do I feel in danger talking to this member? Would talking to them one-on-one be unsafe? If no, then you need to talk to them in person.

      2. DO IT IN PERSON. Avoid technology/use of social media to have a talk with them. It’s okay to text them to ask, “hey do you have time to talk later?”

      3. Make sure your setting is appropriate. Typically a place that is a quiet space that you won’t be interrupted in is best. Somewhere that you BOTH feel safe in. This can be a public or private space, whatever fits your comfort level.

  2. Mediated Dialog

    1. Maybe it’s not working out. Your Membership Officer should mediate a dialog between the two of you.

    2. Ask your membership officer for their recommendation on the situation if you’re feeling stuck.

  3. VPM

    1. Maybe your Membership Officer is the person’s partner, so it didn’t go as you had hoped. Maybe your Membership Officer is a part of the issue (you all live together, it can happen.)

    2. Talk to the Vice President of Membership to see if they can help you solve the issue.

  4. Grievance Committee

    1. If you’ve been recommended by your Membership officer or the VPM that you file a Grievance to the Health and Wellness Committee. 
      (information about how to formally file a Grievance will be attached at the end of this page)

  5. Board

    1. This is the end all be all stage. If you received a recommendation from the Grievance committee that was unsettling or didn’t meet your needs, you can appeal their decision to the Board of Directors.

Communication Skills for Resolving Conflicts

  • A mutually agreeable solution is possible

  • A mutually agreeable solution is desirable; cooperation is more important than one person “winning”

  • Everyone is equally valuable; therefore everyone’s perspective, needs, and feelings, are equally valuable.

  • Disagreements can help us discover the truth, learn, and find harmony.

  • We don’t always know what’s going on in each other’s life 100% of the time, talking to each other gives us that space to check-in.

Active Listening is important!

  • The goal in most conversations is for each party to hear and be heard, but we often tune out when others are speaking to compose what we will say next.

  • Active listening means truly focusing on what is being said and actively engaging the speaker to confirm our understanding.

  • Verifying what the other person is saying, is a good way to actively listen and show the speaker that they’re being heard. It also helps clear up any misunderstandings.

  • Look at the person when they’re talking.

  • Use positive non-verbal communication to show that you understand

    • Nodding, eye contact, sparkle fingers, etc.

  • Here are some example sentence starters to show that you’re listening or to ask clarifying questions.

  • Example leader sentences:

    • What I'm hearing is....

    • Did you say....

    • So you reckon....

    • I understand that....

    • So you say that....

Communication No-Nos:

  • Verbal abuse is not acceptable. Period. That includes yelling, talking over, name calling, swearing, etc.

  • Posting mean things/public shaming on social media about a housemate is not okay.

  • Leaving passive aggressive post-it notes

  • Gossiping behind their back to everyone in the house

  • Interrupting a person while you’re in a conversation with them

“I” Statements

It’s often difficult for people to discuss situations that upset them without blaming or attacking the person they hold responsible. Attacking the person with whom you are seeking resolution, however, rarely leads to a mutually agreeable solution. For thisreason it’s very important to think about what you say before you say it.

“I” statements seek to frame every statement as one person’s emotional response to his or her own perception of an event. I statements acknowledge that another person may feel differently about the same event, or may see an event completely differently. I statements never include judgments about another person.

Your "I" statement is not about being polite.  It's not to do with 'soft' or 'nice', nor should it be rude.  It's about being clear.

Use “I” not “You”
When I'm....

When I....

I think that I....

I feel that I....

My concern is....

Refer to the Behavior, not the Person:

When I'm shouted at I....

When I'm sworn at I....

When I'm pushed around I....

When the dishes are left in the sink I....

When I think I'm not being heard I....

When the guests come over without notice I....

State How the Behavior Affects you:

Ask yourself ... how does this behavior affect me or make me feel?

I feel unappreciated when....

I'm worried that something will go wrong if....

My concern is that....

I get really anxious when....

I get really scared when....

I feel hurt when....

I feel tired when....

State What you Need to Happen:

I need to....

I would like....

What I'd like to see happen is....

It would be nice if....

A basic framework for I statements:

  1. "I"

  2. what YOU feel or want

  3. the event that evoked your feeling(s)

  4. The effect the event has on YOU!

Not an I statement: This house meeting was really bad because you didn’t make an agenda and kept interrupting people.


I statement: I feel really frustrated with the way that the house meeting went when an agenda isn’t created. It feels super disorienting when there’s no order and when people speak over each other and out of their turn.

These are just a few ways to help facilitate conflict resolution in your co-op. If it seems like the situation hasn't improved or you're struggling with what to do, talk with your Membership Officer. 


The Grievance Process

 

  1. The member experiencing an issue with another member should initiate conversation so that the behavior is acknowledged. It’s important to have a one on one conversation with each other so that any forms of miscommunication can be cleared up. Listening to each other fully. Make sure to restate what the other one says to ensure that you are actively listening and so that the other party feels heard. Try to find a mutually agreeable solution. Learn to compromise and work together to make sure both parties needs are met.

    • An example:  housemate A is frustrated by how loud housemate B plays music. Housemate A should tell housemate B that they are feeling frustrated and work out some sort of solution together.

  2. If the conversation with the other member does not go well or that you feel like your safety** is being jeopardized by being alone with the other member, please talk with your membership officer. It is their responsibility to help mediate house conflicts.

    • Maybe housemate A has talked to housemate B multiple times about volume level and quiet hours, and they don’t seem to care. This is when you should bring it up with your membership officer.

    • **If the member has been physically, sexually or verbally assaulted by the member in question, then that member should immediately talk to their Membership officer and Vice President of Membership--they do not need to meet with that person if their safety is being jeopardized.

  3. After that process, if there’s still an ongoing conflict, after recommendations from your Membership officer, you may begin to file a formal grievance. If there is a conflict of interest with your Membership officer, please email the Vice President of Membership about the situation, and then they will give you a recommendation whether or not to file a grievance. 

  4. If you are recommended to file a grievance, begin the process that is outlined below:


Filing a Grievance

Send an email to the Vice President of Membership (vpmembership@msu.coop) and the Vice President of Education (education@msu.coop) detailing what exactly has been happening, with who and for how long. The VPM and VPE are the two co-chairs of the Health and Wellness Committee. Sending concrete dates and events are helpful in documenting the process. If there are blatant contract violations, document those (the current contract is available on the website under the about us/governance page). Your information is kept confidential within the Health and Wellness Committee.

Once your information is received, you will be contacted in within 24hrs. The committee will then ask if you would like to come in in person to share your story. It is optional that you come in, but it is encouraged that you do because the Health and Wellness committee is in place to be of support.

After we hear from you, either just in email or both email and in person, we will then contact the member that the grievance is directed at. It’s important that we listen to both sides of the story. If there are other members that have grievances related to the same problem member, then they are encouraged to go through the same process.

Once we have heard from everyone involved, the Health and Wellness committee will begin the deliberation and recommendation process.