The Nunchi Method: The Korean Cultural Phenomenon That Helps You Be Happy

Nunchi Method

There are many words in each language that refer to a concept related to the search for happiness, a method that gives us greater well-being or a strategy to live better in society and in harmony with it.

The Swedes have “lagom”, the Danes have “hygge” and the Japanese have “ikigai”. All and many more curious words resemble a method that Koreans have been using for centuries to live in harmony with their hive society: the nunchi method

Very popular in the West in recent years as a result of the greater dissemination of approaches related to Emotional Intelligence, nunchi has become something that is essential to know. 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 skill acquired throughout life. This term, so new and exotic for us as Westerners, is nothing more than a Korean word whose concept is practically synonymous with Emotional Intelligence. The nunchi or noonchi (눈치) It means in this Asian language “eye strength” or “measurement of the eye” and is highly valued as a quality in Korea as a quality that makes it easier to build happy and satisfying relationships

It is the art of understanding the mental and emotional universe of others, understanding how they feel and what they think to know what is the best way to act according to the situation.

This has been part of Korean culture since time immemorial, with some saying that it has existed for thousands of years. We cannot affirm that this is the case, but it is something that There is evidence that he has been integrated into Korean society for a long time since already in the 17th century it was highlighted that those who were skilled in that “eye force” were useful for achieving social success.

It is an idea that highlights the importance of being aware of other people’s emotions in order to live better, be happier and progress socially and economically.

Nunchi: Korean Emotional Intelligence

The nunchi method has come to us in the West through the Korean-American journalist Euny Hong. This author has been able to explain very well to the Western public something that has been practiced for centuries in Korea and that in the Asian country is seen as common sense. Hong explains it in her book “The Power of Nunchi: The Korean Secret to Happiness and Success” (2019). With this publication she has contributed to us knowing here that what Daniel Goleman popularized in the 1990s and that seemed so innovative in that decade, Koreans had been applying it for a long time.

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Emotional intelligence has always been important in both the East and the West. That we have given it this name recently does not mean that it did not exist or was necessary before. However, nunchi is a Korean ancestral obligation, a social imperative that determines success and failure in a hive society To have a good nunchi is to succeed in life. With it, you can establish good relationships based on trust, something basic to prosper in the business world and other areas.

How to use the Nunchi method

Some examples of nunchi

For some, that we are talking about a Korean method to increase happiness and well-being may surprise because Korea has earned a certain reputation for not taking special care of the mental health of its citizens. Aside from this, it is true that the nunchi method It has served the millions of Koreans who use it daily to have a fuller and easier life Well, by capturing and knowing how to manage social signals, it is easier to relate to other people and easier to avoid unfortunate situations.

It is especially used in the business world. In the mentality of the average Korean citizen, the nunchi method is key to facilitating any type of business transaction and work interaction and, taking into account that their idea of ​​​​happiness is based on social and work success, this method is fundamental in Korean society . Although they are still a capitalist country, South Korea is a nation where the opinions of others and the common benefit are valued above their own. They are the opposite of an individualistic society.

This can already be seen with how children behave In many Korean schools there is no janitor because boys and girls are raised to understand that, if they see dirt in school, they take the initiative to take a broom and sweep it themselves. The idea is that if they see that the school is abandoned and they don’t like that, they should also understand that others don’t like seeing the school dirty either. Therefore, to avoid making them and others uncomfortable, it is better to remove that filth as soon as possible and, thus, everyone will be happy.

nunchi method in education

We would have another example with the following scene. Let’s imagine that we have a mother with her son waiting in line at an all-you-can-eat restaurant. The child is hungry and says, out loud, “I’m hungry!” We, with our Western mentality, would surely miss something like “Poor thing…” or “You will soon be able to eat, darling.” That wouldn’t even occur to a Korean mother, but she would say something like, “Look at that line of people waiting, do you think they aren’t hungry like you? You will eat when it is your turn, like them.”

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We could give many more examples, but the idea is clear. It implies that we are taught from a young age that others have feelings, emotions, thoughts and desires like our own and that, if when we feel or think in a certain way we want to be treated in a certain way, We must also think that others want their own

Having a good nunchi can help us fit in and create positive social connections, achieving greater success in emotional and work relationships. However, this idea should not be confused with manipulation. This is not the objective of nunchi, but rather to seek a better atmosphere for everyone, while manipulation involves achieving one’s own benefit by making others do things for us, even if that means some kind of detriment to them. It places emphasis on building relationships and moves away from individualism, putting the needs of others at the same level as its own.

Be connected to the social environment

As we said, nunchi can be translated as “eye force.” It does not mean this in the literal sense, but it is related to it. it implies see what is happening around us and be connected with each gesture, stimulus and process to understand it, go beyond what is 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 build more meaningful ties and we contribute to the well-being of others and our own in a better society.

For example, if in a work office there is a worker who is separated from the group, having a good nunchi implies understanding what is happening to this colleague and facilitating his integration. In this situation, several alternatives can be given. The worker may want to be part of the group, but he does not dare because he is ashamed or fears that if he takes the initiative, others will reject him and he is not willing to feel that way. But, it could also happen that you simply need your own space from him, that now is not a good time to interact with him.

Having a good nunchi will involve seeing what the specific case is and acting accordingly If it is the first, invite him to join the group, we want to have him close.

An interpersonal skill

In her book, Euny Hong tells us about the nunchi method as a soft and recommends that it be present in any work environment Soft skills, also called “soft skills”, are a set of social and communication skills, personality traits and other attributes that make it easier for us to work and relate well with others.

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Among these soft skills we would find, in addition to nunchi, empathy, negotiation and problem solving, skills which can also be considered part of the nunchi method itself.

If there is something that stands out a lot in Korea, it is not the fact of having nunchi or not, but knowing how to apply it. This translates into be quick to evaluate, understand the context and emotional needs of others and know how to respond as soon as possible In itself, it could be stated that the nunchi method is the set of knowing how to have the common sense to apply fundamental soft skills in the daily social life of the average Korean citizen.

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How to improve our nunchi?

We emphasize that nunchi, at least in modern Korea, is very oriented towards work and business. As we have mentioned, in the South Korean mentality, happiness lies in social and work success, in addition to contributing to society more than in obtaining personal and individual achievements. Korea is an emerging power and its nunchi method is probably one of the tools that has made it easier for this Asian tiger to gain such power.

Nunchi is developed by knowing how to connect with people, understand them, and create bonds of trust It is also about achieving good alliances with friends and your partner. Some keys to activate our nunchi are the following.

The first thing, which we have already been highlighting, is to observe everything that happens around us. Of course, we must look at everything around us from silence and appreciation. There are many behaviors that can make us assume how a person feels, such as their gestures, tone of voice, movements, eye contact…

In addition to this, It is essential to apply active listening, without interrupting or thinking about how to answer while the other person speaks. Every person wants to feel heard when they tell us about their problems or concerns, which does not help at all to belittle them or not give more importance to what we have to think about than what he or she already thinks.