Mah Jongg Etiquette and Sportsmanship-The Habit Master – Part 1

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Sitting around a Mah Jongg table is not always conducive to good habits and behaviors. Since I am going to be discussing both, let’s first understand the difference between the two. Habits and Behaviors A Habit is a thing that becomes automatic if repeated by a person over and over. And when something becomes automatic, you don’t have to think twice about it. You, as the Nike commercial says, “just do it,” without putting any effort into it. You have perfected that habit and have now become a so called “habit master.” I know being a “habit master” might sound funny, as the idiom says, “old habits do, die hard.” Bad habits are, indeed, HARD to break.

Behavior, on the other hand, is triggered by the nervous and endocrine systems. What goes on in one’s environment will trigger a reaction that show up as a behavior. The most important difference between habits and behavior is that behavior is a conscious action while a habit is an unconscious action. With a behavior, one must think before they react. We’ve all heard these words, “think before you speak,” or “think before you do anything.” When it comes to behavior, we’ve all run into the person that has, forgive me for being so blunt, “diarrhea of the mouth.” You know, the one that doesn’t think before she speaks or reacts instantaneously to something. For example, Jan, a full-figured woman grabs another chocolate and Lynn abruptly says, “Do you really need that?”

How can we work on those habits and behaviors so that we can all live in harmony around the Mah Jongg table? For those new to the game, it will be easier if your teacher educates you on good habits and behaviors from the beginning. I, for one, strive to instill good habits and in my students from day one. Being courteous and polite are things we are supposed to have been taught growing up. Unfortunately, it seems as though some have either forgotten good habits, are unaware of their behavior, or were never taught politeness growing up.

If I observe a student who is either discourteous or rude — and believe me, there seems to be one in every class—I feel it is my duty to set an example for the others by addressing the. One of the most obstinate students I’ve had to date is the one who came into class with a glass of wine. Prior to the first class, everyone receives a group text with reminders of dates, location and rules. Ones of those rules is, “no food, water or coffee in a closed container permitted. So, when this woman walked in with a glass of wine, I chuckled to myself, here we go!”

After asking her if she got my text, she replied, “Oh, I must have missed that.” I responded, “only water and coffee is permitted during class. Would you please place the glass of wine somewhere away from the playing area and not on the floor. She huffed and puffed and nearly blew my house down with her arguments. Instead of doing as I asked, she sat down and placed the glass underneath her chair. She had made the unilateral decision that under the chair meant out of the playing area. When I said something to her again, she got up abruptly and placed the glass on a nearby credenza. You can see the pattern, right?

You can guess what happened at the next class, can’t you? You got it: she came strutting in again with a glass of wine. Had I not clearly addressed this with her last time? Though I felt quite uncomfortable, not only for me but for the entire class, I asked her to leave. When she finally realized the consequences of her behavior, she begged and pleaded to stay: she promised she would not be a repeat offender—again! Thankfully, by addressing her behavior, I was able to see enough change in her to have attend future classes.

On the other hand, what happens when we are dealing with seasoned players who haven’t a clue about being courteous, well, at least around the Mah Jongg table? Did they forget about good habits or is their mind somewhere playing out a role in some Twilight Zone episode?  Because, at times, it sure seems like it doesn’t it? Many of us excuse poor behavior and habits when playing and then we complain and complain to everyone else who will listen. And, everyone knows about this inappropriate behavior except for the one displaying it. Regardless, I am here to help you handle a variety of awkward, uncomfortable and bizarre behavior around the table.

Next up, Debbie’s Golden Rules to help deal with poor habits and behaviors around the Mah Jongg table.

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