305 – Resolving Conflicts with Empathy and Grace

This Week on Soul Talks

We all experience conflict in our close relationships. When misunderstandings, disagreements, and hurt feelings arise, how do we resolve them?

The mistake that we’re most prone to make is to avoid or deflect our emotions. But this only leads to prolonged resentment, anger, and disconnection in relationships.

In this Soul Talk, Bill and Kristi show us a healthier way to resolve conflict. Listen in as they lead us step-by-step through a real conflict they recently faced and what they did to resolve it. Through love and empathy, by Christ’s example, they show us how we can walk the path to forgiveness and restoration.

You can listen in below or scroll further down the page to read along!

Resources for this podcast

Conflict Resolution Transcript

Bill & Kristi Gaultiere



Hi friends, thanks for joining Bill and I for this Soul Talk. 

Many times we’ve heard from you that some of our most helpful Soul Talks are when we are sharing with you, either in real-time or replaying for you a conflict that we’ve worked through together.

So we’re going to do one of those for you today. 

Just a couple of days ago, a conflict came up between us.

As usual, it was “I don’t like conflict,” and it was hard for me.

I wanted to repress it and ignore it and just let it go.

And I wanted to be grace-giving to you because what you did really triggered me. I felt hurt and I was feeling angry. I was trying to just let it go because I knew you didn’t intend to hurt me.

I knew your intentions were good.

And I understood why you did what you did.

But the fact was, it did hurt me and I was really angry about it. 

And there were going to be consequences to it that I was going to have to live with, that I wasn’t okay with.


So you were courageous and assertive, Kristi.

When you came to me, I was at the computer working and concentrating, and I was focused.

You asked to talk, and you might have been afraid that I would be impatient, or say “Well, I can’t now.”

Be Interruptible


Well, I was afraid of that.

Yeah. I was very afraid of that.

I was afraid of being rejected or just not being something you could attend to. 

I was fearful.


Sometimes I do respond in a frustrated or impatient way. Or even a calm but “boundaried” way.

But thankfully, in this case, the Lord helped me to do something that I’ve practiced and trained for:

And that’s to be interruptible.

My natural personality is not interruptible. But I’ve noticed—and this goes back years,

I noticed that Jesus was very interruptible.

And love is interruptible.

Fortunately, I was able to listen.


It was a real gift to me that you were able to stop your work and to listen to me.

At that particular time, I would have accepted it if you couldn’t talk. 

But, I would have had to then carry what I was containing inside for the rest of the day, which was a long day.

Because I was gone the rest of the day into the night and I knew it would help me to talk about it before I left for the day.

And I didn’t want to be carrying around that feeling of anger at you that I was feeling over what you’d done.

Recognize Non-verbal Communication


Yeah. So let’s have the conversation. So I’m sitting, I’m at work, I’m focused. You came up to me and I said, “Kristi, it looks like you want to talk about…”


No, no.

I said “I have something that I realized I’m feeling hurt and angry about. It would really help me to talk through it with you before I leave. Would you have it to engage with me on that?”


And I looked at you and saw you were having some emotion and that you were very earnest and intentional.

So I knew this was important. And I said, “Well, yeah, tell me what are you feeling?”


There was some nonverbal communication that was really helpful to me.

You, instead of facing your computer, actually turned towards me.

I really appreciated that because that told me you are present.

You’re not gonna be tapping your fingers, thinking when can I get back to this?

Instead, it told me “I’m tuned into you,” and you showed me that non-verbally.

So that was really, really helpful to me. 

And of course, I had been praying. 

I had been praying before doing this for quite a while.

I asked, “Can I let this go? Do I need to talk to him about it?”

Just kind of talking to the Lord, checking in with what I was feeling

Seeing if I needed to bother you with this and I felt confirmed that I did.

So I was needing to take ownership and take responsibility for tasks—for what I needed.

And that’s always hard for me to do, to admit I have a need because of my pride.

I don’t want to have a need.

I want to be able to just suck it up and go on. 

Not to be needy. 

Just to be able to forgive and not need to ask you for this. 

Thankfully, you were really responsive.

And so I told you, 

“I read your email that you sent out to one of our staff members asking them to do something. 

I felt really hurt and really angry because what you asked them to do is my area. 

It’s something I’ve always done. It’s something I did the last time it was done. 

So I felt really angry that you didn’t talk to me about this and you just gave it to her to do.”

You Can Have More than One Emotion at a Time


I felt sad about that email because this task is important to me and I want to do it. 

And, I’ve already actually gone down the road with this, and I’ve already made some commitments. 

In your email, you were making commitments to the staff worker. 

Your email meant my commitments couldn’t be kept.

I felt embarrassed and I felt sad. 

And I felt afraid for the people I’d made commitments to. 

I was going to have to go and tell them you can’t have what I promised you.

I just had a lot of emotion about all that.

I was angry about that because this wasn’t the first time that you’ve done something like this.


As I was listening to you share this I was having all sorts of defensive things that I’m feeling.

“Why do I do that?” Or, “What is the stress that I’m carrying that leads me to do that?”

But I’m just verbalizing this now for you who are listening because, in the actual conversation, I didn’t say anything. 

This whole process was happening inside of me.

So what I said to you was, “I’m sorry. I see how this is hurtful to you. And I have done this a number of times, and it really takes the wind out of your sails. And you feel like you’re not respected by me or unimportant. And like I’ve just really usurped your spot here.”

Spell Out Exactly What Happened


And when you said that, I said, “Thank you.” 

And I felt like you really understood and cared about me.

You were empathetic to how hurt I felt and the offense that I had taken.

And because you weren’t defensive, you became so empathetic

You recognized what this had felt like to me and that you could understand my perspective and why I was angry.

You showed this by saying you were sorry, then I got to say, 

“Thank you. I really appreciate that. 

I know you didn’t mean to hurt me and you didn’t mean to offend me. 

You didn’t mean to take this out of my hands. 

I have empathy for you that you’ve got all this in your inbox, this flood of emails. 

This situation that you handed off to her was in your email and you didn’t know what I’d done with it. 

Since I wasn’t available to you, you were just trying to deal with things in your email and get them off of you. So you thought “She’s available, she’d do a great job with this.”

And so you just hand it to her because you just wanted it taken care of. 

And you don’t want to have to think about it. So you, at the time, weren’t thinking about the fact that it was something that I deal with or that it would be important for me to keep.

You might have even been thinking, I’d like to get the stress off of Kristi and help her and lighten her load.

So I had empathy for you that you didn’t know what you were doing and didn’t intend that.

But I also had insecurities like:

Were you not happy with how I’ve handled this? 

Or, Were you not happy with my plan and how I wanted to handle it this year?

And I had even talked to you about this and told you what I wanted more than once. 

I communicated to you that this was important to me. 

So that made me doubt, Well, maybe you don’t agree with me and maybe you think it’d be better for this staff member to do it.

Acknowledge Emotions Then Take Action


Yeah, that’s where you’re feeling disrespected.

And there’s frustration that’s building because it’s important to you.

And because we’ve been around this corner a bunch of times, there’s a part of you that thinks,

How could Bill do this again? We’ve talked about this, how could he disregard me, yet again, in this kind of a situation?

Even though I’ve told him that I’m handling this area of the ministry and that he doesn’t need to worry about it.


Yeah. Right now, you’re doing it again, you’re empathizing with me and acknowledging the insecurity that I feel.

Then the next thing you said was,

“Well, I’ll fix this. I will email our staff member. 

And I’ll tell her that, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t talk to Kristi first. This is an area she’s handled and she’s already been working on this and she wants to proceed with it.’”

So I thought, “Wow, that’d be great.”

But, I also felt shame because I was worried thinking, 

How is she going to feel? Is she gonna feel that I’m taking this from her?

Or that I didn’t trust her or that I didn’t think she’d do a good job cause I knew she would. 

I didn’t want that to happen, because it wasn’t really about her.

So it was hard for me to let you do that. 

I needed to think about that, but the fact that you were willing to do that really meant a lot to me.

I really felt like you were hearing me and caring for me and putting the priority on me, which at the time I really needed.

Don’t Throw Anybody “Under the Bus”


When you told me to go ahead and do that, I tried to do it in a way that wasn’t throwing you under the bus.

Which, I wouldn’t have even attempted to do.

Although there were times in past years where had this not worked out so smoothly, I probably would have had some anger. And I might’ve been tempted to put a dig in or something.

But instead, I just owned it. I knew that it was about me.

So, honestly, you blessed me to be able to do that for you.

And you know, God worked in the whole thing for good.

I think because the employee responded really well to my email, that she understood the situation. It illustrates, in the end, the value of emotionally healthy, honest, taking-ownership conversations.

Own Your Actions


And I have come to learn that the emperor has no clothes on.

Everybody on our staff knows that, Yeah, Bill works hard. 

Sometimes it takes a lot of patience because he’s a “gut” type. He goes with his “gut.”

And sometimes he makes decisions too quickly.

For example, I have explained to you, when I’ve shared some of my feelings and some of my experiences, that it’s like a defect in my personality.

I can create great strategic job descriptions for everybody on our staff. And I can design how people would interact in different roles.

I live in the world of vision and possibilities and strategy.

But then I forget what I set up, because when it gets into the area of steps and processes that all need to happen in an organization, I don’t live there.

When I’m in the world of “execution,” as it relates to all the stuff in the middle, to all of the people, to all of the processes that need to be managed and the steps involved…

I just don’t really see that world.

And it’s not even interesting to me.

So when I’m under pressure, with the inbox full of stuff to do, I’m just trying to get stuff off of me.

And when I’m under pressure, I don’t remember the obvious stuff. So it’s no surprise that, “Of course Kristi is upset, we’ve already had this conversation.” 

But, for me, this isn’t an event. I’m just trying to get something off my plate.

I’m aware that you’re being taken away from that role right now with other commitments, so I’m trying to help you, by taking stuff off of you.

But I’m into my over-functioning mode.

It’s not even conscious when I over-function. 

And I’m actually trying to help you because I think you’ve got too much on your plate, but I just miss the mark.

Being Honest Prevents Spiraling Into Negativity


Yeah. I can trust that and believe that, because I know you and I know your heart. 

And I knew the stress and burden you were under.

And so that made sense and I appreciated that.

But some other things were key in the resolving of this conflict.

First of all, if I hadn’t come clean to you with what I was feeling, if I hadn’t taken responsibility for what I was feeling by asking you for what I needed, I would have stewed in the anger. 

I would have just continued to feel like:

Oh Bill, he just doesn’t listen to me.

He just doesn’t consider me.

He just acts, he just does what he wants to do.

And I could have just stewed on that all day. 

I could have stewed on that and been angry at you for days. 

I could have pulled away from you.

I could have given up on work thinking, Well why do I try so hard anyway? I’m not really needed…

I could have spiraled into all of that instead of coming and taking on my responsibility to talk to you about it.

The other thing is, if you had responded defensively or gotten angry at me for interrupting your work, or “powered-up” and said something like, “You just need to respect me as the leader of this ministry…”

I would not have respected you. I would’ve let you just go your own way. I would have let you just go the direction you had gone, but I would have been mad about it.

And I would have had to face the resentment and face the anger and face the disrespect that I would feel towards you.

Invite People to Understand Your Experience


I would have, in my own maturity process with the Lord, come to a place of forgiveness.

But it would have been a long, painful process—A process that would have caused a separation in the intimacy between you and I, while I worked all that through.

Because I would have had to work the forgiveness piece all by myself.

But instead, you softened your heart towards me. 

You heard me, you empathized with me, and you even owned that you had acted without talking to me. 

And you made it right.

You made the repair. I felt so much more respect, bondedness, closeness and intimacy with you.

And it enabled me to even better follow your lead in our ministry. 


I appreciate that.

And I appreciate the way that you approached me.

Because you had already prayed and processed your feelings, even before talking with me.

You approached me in a way that was very calm and respectful. And you took ownership of your experience.

You invited me to understand your experience and you weren’t judging me.

You weren’t criticizing me.

You weren’t pointing the finger at me.

You were really just being vulnerable enough to say “this is how I felt in this situation.”

That made it easier for me to respond with empathy and to listen. 

There was some temptation to be defensive or to tell you what I was feeling, but through lots of training and habits, I knew to just stay.

I was able to stay on the path of empathy. And your demeanor and approach helped me do that.

We Love Because We Have Already Been Loved


I think the other thing that helped me stay on the path of empathy was what we talked about a couple of podcasts ago. 

We talked about the rhythm of life and the spiritual disciplines for soul care and so forth.

I take a Sabbath.
And so there was a deep inner rest and wellspring in me to draw from, even though I was under some stress with catching up on a lot of stuff since we’d just come back from an Institute week.

Deeper than all that, there’s this abiding in Christ, and the Holy Spirit praying for me.

So I was able to stand with Jesus in the Father’s world where I’m loved and secure, without even needing to consciously think about it at the moment because it was alive in me.

And then just give you that same empathy and grace that I’m swimming in.


We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

You were letting yourself be in Christ’s love—To live and receive from him in his life and join him in caring for your soul so that you were able to better love me.

And our staff member was too.

Because I felt really, really loved by her response to your email.


It is just amazing how healthy, loving, productive and fruitful each of our staff members are.


She took no offense and she had total empathy for both of us and where we were coming from.
She just blessed us.

That was great because I knew she would have been blessed to do this.
She would have liked to have done this. 

And that’s why it was hard for me to assert myself.

Take On the Training of the Easy Yoke


So you’re listening and you might be thinking, Oh, I wish that I could resolve conflicts that way with my spouse or family member or coworker.

Or, Gosh, I want to have more emotional and spiritual maturity.

So it’s like, “Well, how do I get there?”

It’s not enough to just say, “I’m going to do this differently next time.”

It’s a process of training.

Remember one of the basic things that we teach in our book, Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke, is that we don’t just try, train with Jesus.

It’s a process of preparing and doing a variety of spiritual disciplines—Including some disciplines that don’t normally make the traditional spiritual disciplines lists; like soul talks and seeking empathy, for instance.

As we practice these disciplines and how they work together, (this is part of what we teach at our Institute) we learn how to have an intelligent, strategic program in your rhythm of life.

And that’s what we were illustrating, a couple of podcasts ago, when talking about the Seven S’s and our rhythm of life. There’s a whole other conversation about why those seven things and how they work together.

We did illustrate the different units of time, starting from a large amount of time, all the way down to moments.

But it’s also different types of disciplines that are getting at different areas of where we’re broken or where we have needs so that they work together.

It’s a whole life process.

This is all part of our discipleship to the Lord Jesus. 

And it’s part of being in an emotionally honest and loving community.

And we really need that.

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