3. practice the art of 'roundness'
"Western society tends to reward pushy behaviour," writes Hong. She goes on to describe it as using your "elbows" to create attention and how sometimes, we'd be better off "shutting up". I definitely do this in a room, where I think I need to be the loudest person in order to deflect from my awkwardness. Roundness is about creating inner stability. "The next time you find yourself in a conflict, don't just say whatever comes to mind," explains Hong. "First take a deep breath and ask yourself two simple questions: 'What am I doing, and why?'"
This is something I struggle with a lot. I want to be a beacon of calm, but often I find myself saying things to friends that create conflict. I tell myself that "I'm just being honest" and "Wouldn't they rather know than not know?" but the most recent incident made me think that it isn't the case: I was relaying a story to a friend in a jokey way - we'd been discussing certain characteristics of our friendship group - and she got really upset. I hadn't paid attention to the social cues and created unnecessary conflict, when I should've just kept my mouth shut.
ultimately, it's OK to be quiet sometimes
Probably the most valuable thing I've learned from nunchi is this: listening to your gut is real. It's not based on woo-woo: instead, it comes from the many things you've subconsciously noted about how another person speaks, behaves and how others react around them. And being consciously aware of all these things gives you more power. While it may seem counterintuitive to manage anxious thoughts by focussing on what the other person is doing, nunchi can help in one big area which is that it forces you to slow your thoughts down.
"I think that anything which helps us to be more mindful and present can help," says Brotheridge. "Slowing down, getting present by tuning into your surroundings and taking your time before moving into a social situation can all be calming to the nervous system and a gentler way of being with yourself when fears set in." So, yes, taking a breath and remaining quiet can be far more effective than being the loudest voice in the room. But it's also worth remembering that, when you do speak, not everyone is going to love you, and that's OK.
"Anxiety sufferers," says Hong, "almost always focus on the people who dislike them or cause the most ill feeling. This is natural, but it creates an imbalance of power, where you are unconsciously trying to please the most unpleasable." Or, to quote Hong's book, you don't have to be the best in order to win; all you need is your eyes and ears.