For centuries it has been the guiding principle of Korean life. Described as “the subtle art of gauging other people’s thoughts and feelings in order to build trust, harmony, and connection”, it promises to improve the dynamics of interpersonal relationships in our modern life.
Nunchi is the art of sensing what people are thinking, feeling, and responding appropriately. It’s speed-reading a room with the emphasis on the collective, not on specific individuals. In short, it’s a lesson in emotional intelligence and if you are looking for meaningful connections, Nunchi is the way forward: it can help you choose the right partner in life or business, it can help you shine at work, it can protect you against those who mean you harm, and it can even reduce social anxiety.
Having great Nunchi means continuously recalibrating your assumptions based on any new word, gesture or facial expression you observe in other people-. Euny Hong, author of the new lifestyle handbook ‘The Power of Nunchi: the Korean secret to happiness and success‘ explains-, so that you are always present, aware and making the best possible impression. And you already possess the tools of nunchi– your eyes and your ears.
The great thing about Nunchi is you don’t need to be rich, privileged, or even in a good mood to employ it. You don’t need to be the loudest in order to present your ideas or ask for a raise; you just need to have the best timing. In fact, Koreans say that Nunchi is “the secret weapon of the disadvantaged.”
The power is within you grasp
To practice Nunchi, you must learn to listen and observe more than you speak in any conversation. People who negotiate well are those who are willing to listen. And Nunchi is all about listening and then assessing the situation.
In Korea, what is not being said is every bit as important as the words that are spoken, and a person who pays attention merely to the words is getting just half the story – says Euny Hong-. If you wait long enough, most of your questions will be answered without you having to say a word.
Ask your self what is the emotional energy of a room and what kind of emotional energy can you emit to flow with that? According to Euny, a self-confessed Nunchi ninja- “we have the powerful social instincts that give us strong clues about the room but we have to be observant and more focused on others than ourselves to get it right”.
The Nunchi Rules
Whether you want to find a new job, negotiating a pay rise, finding a partner or improving your self-confidence, here are the top Korean tips to follow:
- First, empty your mind to lose your preconceptions and observe with discernment.
- Work out what people are thinking rather than what they are saying.
- Be good mannered
- Read between the lines
- Don’t take people at face value
- Look at their body language to understand what is happening or what could happen.
- Be quick to catch the vibes.
- Follow your gut instinct.
- Above all, never pass up a good opportunity to shut up.
One of the biggest blocks to Nunchi? The smartphone: as people become increasingly afraid of silence they are quick to distract themselves and miss out on vital signals and information.