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Recently I read a short story entitled “The Tale of the Merchant” (1) which gives an anecdotal account of the failed attempt by some town guards who had been given the task of clamping down on smuggling during a famine.

One of the suspects was a rice merchant.  Each and every time he came into town the guards stopped and searched him thoroughly but nothing was ever found.  On one occasion the guards soaked the merchant’s sacks in water along with all his clothes.  Another time the entire contents of the merchant’s sacks were burnt but nothing was ever found.

Many years later the merchant happened to bump into one of the guards and the two of them fell into conversation.

“Do you remember all that smuggling during the famine?” asked the merchant

“Oh, yes, I remember” smiled the guard

“Tell me, did they ever catch the fellow”? enquires the merchant

“No” said the guard, “they never caught him.  Why, do you know who it was?”

“It was me,” was the response.

“You!” exclaimed the guard.  “How could it be you?  We searched you and never found anything.  How could you be the smuggler?”

I was smuggling rice,” replied the merchant.

This little tale is a very good reflection on life.  All too often, people over think things and because they assume that matters are more complicated than they actually are, problems that should be quite easily solved remain unsolved. In the context of a conflict or disagreement, over complicating matters increases tension and exacerbates disharmony.  Accordingly, matters that could have been resolved promptly might never, ever, be satisfactorily resolved.

In the context of mediations and facilitated discussions, even when the “solution” may be glaringly obvious ASM Plus mediators and facilitators will never “advise” or tell their clients what to do. However, by a process of asking the right questions, helping parties to identify and agree the salient facts, encouraging them to be proactive and, importantly, to look at matters objectively, practical workable solutions are often arrived at. Simple but nonetheless very important points are taken up rather than being dismissed out of hand and inheritance, family or commercial disputes that would either have had to go all the way to full and very costly court hearings or may never have been resolved at all will be satisfactorily disposed of in a short space of time and at little cost. Dishonest rice merchants and over thinkers beware!

(1) From the annals of the celebrated cookery writer and natural healer, Jack Santa Maria.

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