There are many words in each language that refer to a concept related to the search for happiness, to a method that gives us greater well-being or to a strategy for living better in society and in harmony with it.
The Swedes have the “lagom”, the Danes the “hygge” and the Japanese the “ikigai”. Many, many more curious words sound like a method Koreans have been using for centuries to live in harmony with their hive society: the nunchi method.
Widely popular in the West in recent years due to the increasing spread of approaches related to emotional intelligence, nunchi have become increasingly important. Let’s find out what it is and how to apply it.
What is the Nunchi method?
The nunchi method can be understood as a kind of Korean common sense and, at the same time, a lifelong skill. This term, as new and exotic to us as Westerners, is just a Korean word whose concept is practically synonymous with Emotional Intelligence. El nunchi or noonchi (눈치) in this Asian language, it means “eye force” or “eye measure” and is highly valued as a quality in Korea as a quality that facilitates the building of happy and satisfying relationships..
It is the art of understanding the mental and emotional universe of the other, understanding what he feels and what he thinks in order to know the best way to act according to the situation.
It has been part of Korean culture since time immemorial, some say it has been around for thousands of years. We cannot say that it is so, but it is something that He has long been known to be integrated into Korean societyfor already in the 17th century it was evident that those who were skilled in this “eye force” were worth achieving social success.
It is an idea that emphasizes the importance of being aware of the emotions of others in order to live better, be happier and progress socially and economically.
Nunchi: Korean emotional intelligence
The nunchi method came to us in the West through Korean-American journalist Euny Hong. This author was able to explain very well to the Western public something that has been practiced for centuries in Korea and which, in the Asian country, is common sense. Hong explains this in his book “The Power of Nunchi: The Korean Secret to Happiness and Success” (2019). This publication let us know that what was popularized by Daniel Goleman in the 1990s and seemed so innovative in this decade, Koreans had been applying it for a long time.
Emotional intelligence has always been important in both East and West. Just because we recently gave it that name doesn’t mean it didn’t exist or was needed before. However, nunchi is an ancestral Korean obligation, a social imperative that determines success and failure in a hive society. To have a good nunchi is to succeed in life. With him, good relations can be established on the basis of trust, which is essential for prosperity in the business world and in other areas.
Some examples of nunchi
For some, the fact that we are talking about a Korean method to increase happiness and well-being may come as a surprise because Korea has earned a reputation for not taking particular care of the mental health of its citizens. Apart from that, it is true that the nunchi method It has helped millions of Koreans use it every day for a fuller and easier life. because, by capturing and knowing how to manage social signals, it is easier to relate to others and more easily avoid unfortunate situations.
It is mostly used in the business world. In the mindset of the average Korean citizen, the nunchi method is essential for facilitating any type of business transaction and professional interaction, and since their idea of happiness is based on social and professional success, this method is fundamental in Korean society. . Although still a capitalist country, South Korea is a nation where other people’s opinions and the common good are valued above one’s own. They are the opposite of an individualistic society.
This can already be seen in the behavior of the children. In many Korean schools, there is no janitor because children are brought up to understand that if they see dirt in the school, they take the initiative to take a broom and sweep themselves. . The idea is that if they see that the school is abandoned and they don’t like it, they also have to understand that other people don’t like to see the school dirty either. Therefore, in order to prevent themselves and others from feeling uncomfortable, it is better to remove this dirt as soon as possible, and thus everyone will be happy.
We would have another example with the following scene. Imagine having a mother with her child queuing at a free buffet restaurant. The child is hungry and says aloud: “I am hungry! We, with our Western mentality, would surely miss something like “Poor little…” or “Soon you’ll be able to eat, darling”. For a Korean mother, it wouldn’t even cross her mind, but she would say something like, “Look at this line of people waiting, do you think they’re not as hungry as you are?” You will eat when it touches you, like them.”
We could give many other examples, but the idea is clear. This involves being taught from an early age that others have feelings, emotions, thoughts and desires like their own and that if when we feel or think a certain way we want to be treated like some way, it is also necessary to think that the others want the same thing.
Having a good nunchi can help us integrate and create positive social bonds, achieving greater success in emotional and professional relationships. However, this idea should not be confused with manipulation. This is not the purpose of nonchi, but to seek a better atmosphere for all, while manipulation is to obtain one’s own benefit by making others do for us, even if it harms them. It emphasizes relationship building and moves away from individualisms, putting the needs of others on the same level as their own.
Be connected with the social environment
As we said, nunchi can be translated as “eye force”. It doesn’t mean that in the literal sense, but it relates to it. Involve see what is happening around us and be connected to every gesture, stimulus and process to understand it, go beyond the apparent, put yourself in the place of others and act accordingly. In this way, we adapt better to the situation, we have more capacity to form more meaningful connections and we contribute to the well-being of others and our own in a better society.
For example, if there is a worker in a work office who is distant from the group, having a good nunchi means understanding what is happening to this partner and facilitating their integration. In this situation, there may be several alternatives. The worker may want to be part of the group, but he doesn’t dare because he is ashamed or afraid that if he takes the initiative, the others will reject him and he doesn’t want to feel that way. But it could also be that you just need your own space, which is not the right time to interact with him.
Having a good nunchi will mean seeing the specific case and acting accordingly. If it is the first, invite it to join the group that we want to have nearby.
In her book, Euny Hong tells us about the nunchi method as a soft skill and recommends its presence in any work environment. Soft skills, also known as “soft skills”, are a set of social, communication skills, personality traits and other attributes that allow us to work more easily and relate well to others.
Among these soft skills we would find, in addition nunchi, empathy, negotiation and problem solving, skills that can also be considered part of the nunchi method itself.
If there’s one thing that stands out in Korea, it’s not whether or not you have nunchi, but how to apply it. This is explained by be quick to assess, understand the context and emotional needs of others and know how to react as quickly as possible. By itself, one could say that the nunchi method is the whole body of common sense knowledge to apply basic soft skills in the daily social life of the average Korean citizen.
How to improve our nunchi?
We emphasize that nunchi, at least in modern Korea, is very work-oriented and business-oriented. As we mentioned, in the South Korean mentality, happiness lies in social and professional success, in addition to contributing to society rather than obtaining personal and individual achievements. Korea is an emerging power and its nunchi method is probably one of the tools that facilitated the rise of this Asian tiger with such power.
The nunchi develops the knowledge to connect with people, to understand them, to create bonds of trust. It is also about establishing good partnerships with friends and partners. Here are some keys to activate our nunchi.
The first thing, on which we insisted, is to observe everything that is happening around us. Of course, we must look at everything around us from silence and appreciation. Many behaviors can make us guess how a person is feeling, such as their gestures, tone of voice, movements, eye contact…
What’s more, it is essential to apply active listening, without interrupting or thinking while the other person talks about how to respond. Everyone wants to be heard when they share their problems or concerns with us, which does not help to underestimate or not give more importance to what we have to think about what he is already thinking.
- Heo, Jae Hong & Bag-wonju,. (2013). Development and validation of the Nunchi scale. Korean Counseling Journal. 14. 3537-3555. 10.15703/kjc.14.6.201312.3537.
- Park, Hyun and An, Hyo. (2019). Nursing student experiences of Nunchi in clinical practice. Journal of the Korean Academic Society of Nursing Education. 25. 48-57. 10.5977/jkasne.2019.25.1.48.
- Kim, Sin & Park, Sihyun & Baek, min. (2021). Mediating effects of insecure adult attachment and Nunchi on the relationship between life stress and college adjustment in college students. Journal of the Korea Academy of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing. 30. 1-8. 10.12934/jkpmhn.2021.30.1.1.