As an etiquette coach and behaviour analyst, I come across people, who despite knowing the codes of good social behaviour and manner, do not seem to just get it right! A lady client was complaining that as she drifts into a social conversation, she tends to slip into an ‘unexplained resentment’ and does not take part of the conversation anymore, and chooses to walk away. And that is rude, she admits.
So, the coach in me asked her questions, and then I listened to her as she talked. As expected I could help her realise that her uncordial behaviour stems from the Missing Tile Syndrome.
The Missing Tile Syndrome
Dennis Prager explains “The Missing Tile Syndrome and how our happiness in life is trapped in the syndrome. While sitting in a room, you tend to look up at the ceiling and notice a missing tile. And you focus on it so much that you soon tend to not notice the rest of the tiles on the ceiling, at all. I am as guilty as the rest for thinking about the missing tile and probably worse when I am neither doing anything to repair the missing tile nor am I appreciating the tiles that I already have.
Let’s transfer this analogy to our lives. It’s so easy to focus on what we don’t have rather than enjoying the things in our life that we do have. And gradually practise the resentment of the missing tile in our lives, so much that it gets manifested in our social behaviour. We become less appreciative of what we have in our lives.
Prager explains this simply yet effectively. A bald man who always concentrates on people with hair on their heads will always be a diffident man. A woman who cannot give birth to a child and who only sees pregnant women will never keep herself and her surroundings happy. Also, there are different missing tiles for different people. So what do we do –live unhappily in the pursuit of happiness? Or, live and strive for the pursuit of contentment? For, social behavioural etiquette does not just belong at the dining table or the boardroom, but also defines our responsibility to spread social pleasantness and develop a social empathy towards one and all. There are always the imperatives–things I must do which leads to perfectionism, frustration and unhappiness to ourselves and to others. But then there are also the indicatives–things I can do as best as I can–a practice of excellence.
Don’t chase the un-chasable
Happiness might be an El Dorado for most of us, but contentment is within us and with that we can spread social happiness. So, look up at the ceiling –be aware of the missing tile –can you do anything about it? Then do it. If you cannot, then accept and appreciate the tiles that you have. Our constant concentration on the missing tile of our life will do nothing but diminish our happiness. Etiquette does not mean to say thank you to others but also be thankful with what we have. There is immense contentment in the power of gratitude.
(Chaudhary is a Chandigarh-based image and style consultant)