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Is the Grass Always Greener?

On a recent walk, I got caught in a sudden downpour. It seemed to come out of nowhere. My weather app hadn’t predicted it. In fact, it stated no rain was expected all day so I hadn't brought an umbrella with me. I never learn. As I sheltered under the nearest tree I was joined by a little boy and his mother. The little boy was around four or five, an inquisitive age. I listened, with some amusement, to him driving his poor mother to distraction. Every answer his mother gave was immediately followed by why? We appeared to be in for a long wait for the rain to stop. The mother did her best, always trying to answer his incessant questions with something that would satisfy him. He considered all of her answers carefully, not letting up.

One of his questions was why does it rain? His mother patiently explained about water droplets being absorbed by clouds over the sea which are eventually released when the water becomes too heavy for the clouds to hold. The little boy wasn’t satisfied. He picked holes in her answer and wouldn’t let it go. Finally, exasperated, she told him it rained when the sun and the moon argued about when each should be ruling the sky. The sun thought it unfair not to be out during the night when everyone was asleep and the world was peaceful. The moon had it so easy. Whilst the moon felt quite the opposite and wasn’t happy to be missing out all the hustle and bustle of the day when there was so much to see. The sun and the moon were arguing at this very the moment which was why it was raining.

This version seemed to make much more sense to the child, a plausible reason for the sudden rain. But he also wondered why the sun and the moon couldn’t just share the sky. Well, they do really, said his mother, but you can only see the sun in the day time and the moon at night. So why are they arguing asked the little boy? Good question said his mother. I guess it’s because people always want what they think they don’t have, instead of realising what they do have and it’s the same with the sun and the moon.

The rain stopped as suddenly as it started and we all went our separate ways. I thought further about the mother’s response - clearly questionable and she would no doubt have some answering to do in time - but part of her answer actually made a lot of sense. Not the bit about why it rained, obviously, but the bit about how people are always looking at what they don’t have rather than what they do have.

As a mediator, I often see this 'grass is greener' attitude as a root cause of disputes. So often the subject matter of the disagreement, particularly in commercial mediations, isn’t the real issue. When you dig deeper, it generally becomes apparent that one party feels aggrieved about something they believe the other party has to its advantage but (and here’s the rub) that other party often also feels that they are at a disadvantage.

Facilitative mediation is an effective process to get the parties to acknowledge the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and they are expending negative energy by focussing on what they don’t have as opposed to what they do have. Just like the sun and the moon…….

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