In Korea, the practice of nunchi is seen as an important life skill – as important as road safety, and could just perhaps be the secret to happiness. But what is it? And how can we practise it?
Nunchi, when literally translated, means “eye-measure”, and in simple terms can be defined as the art of reading a room. It is using all gestures, words, facial expressions and body language to best understand what people are thinking and feeling, and so react to them in the best way possible. It’s the key principle in Korea in fostering good relations and creating connections with people.
This is a good summary of nunchi, though nunchi is a skill that can be constantly honed and improved on. These are a few ways that you can use some of its principles to improve your personal and work life.
1. When entering a new situation, whether it be meeting your partner’s friends for the first time, or starting in a new office, take just a little time to gauge the mood of the room before speaking. Is everyone relaxed? Or is there some clue in how people are acting that suggests there may be tension in the room? If you can pick up on a tension source early on, you can work around it.
2. Talk less and listen more. When meeting new people listen twice as much as you talk. Not only will it give you pointers on how to best connect with that new person, it can also help to calm you and reduce any anxiety you might have.
3. Consider what people are NOT saying as well as what they are saying. On a similar note, why might they be dodging questions or subjects? If it’s a sensitive topic, it might be best to bring it up in private.