In Korea, what is not being said is every bit as important as the words that are spoken, and as a person who pays attention merely to the words is getting half the story.
Nunchi, also called Noonchi is a Korean concept signifying the subtle art and ability to listen and gauge others’ moods. Sounds like reading people’s minds, isn’t it? Well, it sure does provide means to know other people. It is also said that in Korea, people learn this concept at a very young age.
Let’s look at some rules for this Korean secret to emotional intelligence :
- First, empty your mind – Stop or step back and breathe, don’t just assume that you know everything about a person, place or the world in a meeting. Give yourself and your mind a break to not open your mouth.
- Nunchi Observer Effect – Your presence matters. When you enter the room, you change the room. But, that doesn’t mean you should make that obvious. You should not crack a joke even if it’s the funniest you’ve ever heard. Observe your surroundings.
- Watch the room – When you enter any party, there are many people that’ve entered before you. So, watch them, if there’s something funny happening or there’s a fight, don’t just ask right away, there are chances that you might know the topic in a couple of minutes just by observing.
- Never pass on a good opportunity to shut up – This is an addition to the 3rd step and that means you don’t need to unnecessary speak even when you have queries, it’s good to wait, because it will be answered, it’s better to listen more than speak.
- Manners exist for a reason – Suppose you’re at a party and there are certain rules for eating, and just because you gotta do YOU and you don’t follow them, it will not only leave a bad impression but you will also be considered as someone who doesn’t like to follow rules.
- Read between the lines – You should always notice people’s actions when they don’t speak because that’s when they are speaking a lot. Actions do speak and therefore don’t judge anyone by their words, there are people who don’t show their feelings so it’s better you read between the lines.
- If you cause harm unintentionally, it’s sometimes as bad as if you caused it intentionally – Intent is not impacted, as the saying goes. The intent is just based on what’s in your own head; you need to get outside of your head to make people comfortable around you. Try to create roundness, not jagged edges. This is definitely for both small and big things. Let’s say you are not good at knowing when a host secretly wants you to leave. Your host says, “I’d love for you to stay for dinner but I don’t have enough lamb.” If you say, “Oh it’s ok, I’m a vegetarian anyway,” ugh. Even though you didn’t mean to encumber them, they will remember you as a pest and be far less likely to invite you over in the future.
- Be nimble, be quick – Gather everything quickly, the data and all the information. The room you entered 10 minutes ago is not the same now. Nunchi isn’t just something that’s “nice to have,” like an ear for music or mere charm; it’s a means of survival and well-being. Causing unintentional gaffes due to a lack of nunchi is sometimes hilarious, sure, but often the stakes are more serious. Intent is not impact, as they say. Deliberate or not, the ick from someone nunchi-deficient yields the same result. Think about friends who are no longer your friends, not because of malice, but because people just didn’t want to be around them. Most likely, no one will ever tell this person why they lost friends, were passed up for promotions, or seem to find that doors open to others are closed for them. For such people, life is a mystery.
But, for you it doesn’t have to be a mystery. All you need is your ears and the willingness to listen.