Here's Why You Need to Know About Nunchi

If you keep up with wellness trends from around the world, you may be familiar with hygge, the Danish art of getting cozy; lagom, the Swedish philosophy of balance; and Còsagach, the Scottish method of feeling content. They all proclaim that they can guide us on our path to a better life. But now there’s a new book that lets us in on the 5,000+-year-old Korean wellness plan of Nunchi, which promises to build trust, harmony and connection. And all we really need to do is to talk less and listen more.

So… What is Nunchi?

In The Power of Nunchi: the Korean Secret to Happiness and Success, author Euny Hong explains that nunchi (pronounced noon-chee)is the art of using your five senses — plus your “sixth sense” — to understand what others are thinking and feeling. In fact, the word nunchi means “eye measure” a.k.a. gauging something with your eyes. To practice nunchi, you must learn to listen and observe more than you speak. To do this, be sure to:

  • Be quiet when entering into new or unfamiliar situations. Trust your eyes and ears to guide you.
  • Listen twice as much as you speak.
  • Always believe that feeling in your gut. It knows when something isn’t right and when someone is lying. 
  • Don’t confuse anxiety with intuition. Anxiety is often felt in your chest, while intuition is felt in your stomach, according to nunchi.

While some of us may be born with nunchi, others can be taught it as a skill. Hong explains that she did not innately have the ability but was able to master it eventually with practice.

Nunchi In a Tech-Savvy World

Hong notes that while technology can make nunchi harder to practice, it isn’t impossible. She suggests limiting email exchanges to no more than two when discussing crucial matters. End emails with questions that prompt the recipient to respond or encourage an in-person meeting.

Nunchi and Dating

When dating, remember to listen. People will reveal a lot if you allow them the space to do so. Let them talk more than you do. But avoid emotional topics at first, as they can often go off course.

If you’re online dating, you might not feel ready to meet someone right away, but you can gauge their messages for consistency. In that case, you can take “listen more than you speak” to mean to really pay attention to their messages before moving forward with the relationship.

Nunchi in Friendships

In social situations, nunchi can be helpful when navigating sensitive topics. For example, let’s say someone asks your friend when she’s going to have a baby. If you’re really observing, maybe you see your friend has a frown between her brows, yet she is answering politely. This would be a good queue for you to change the subject. Because you’re really listening, you’ll know that this uncomfortable question has unearthed issues.

Nunchi in the Workplace

Hong cautions that the workplace can be a breeding ground of passive-aggressive behavior and double talk. You should not only focus on your environment but also the culture. For example, if you want to ask for a raise, check your boss’ vibe on the day you want to do so. Are they stressed? Are empty candy wrappers littering their desks? Is their garbage pail overflowing with discarded bags of chips? If so, you may want to skip that day and plan it for another one where they might be more likely to positively respond. 

When you do sit down to negotiate your pay increase, let your boss speak more than you do. What your boss says will give you clues on how to ask. This is also true when you are being interviewed for a job. Allow the interviewer to direct the conversation. People who negotiate well are those who are willing to listen. And nunchi is all about listening.

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