Chris Ulrich is a body language expert, a personal coach, oh and my improv teacher. Chris works with a large variety of clients ranging from political figures, to lawyers, to teachers, to government employees. He mainly works one on one with clients, and travels across the country giving corporate talks, keynotes, and conducting workshops with various National Associations and corporations.
Chris is the kindest human being I have ever met. He has the patience of a saint and a wonderful way of making each and everyone of my classmates feel welcome and at ease. When I figured out he was a body language expert, I
begged asked Chris to sit down with me, outside of class, to pick his brain on all things body language.
OK let’s dig in!
Dara: There are times when I’m in conversation with someone, I feel like it’s going great. The rapport is totally there, conversation is flowing nicely, but their arms are crossed, or their feet are turned away, or they’re leaning way from me! What’s that about?
Chris: We make snap judgments, within 7 seconds, but I think it’s even faster. We mind reads the scenario, we assume XYZ is true. The greatest myth is crossed arms. Perception wise, it comes across as I’m bored or disinterested, but it’s more likely not the reality. Science actually shows that you’re 30% more likely to work through a difficult problem with arms crossed. When we cross our arms, we’re engaging our right and left brain.
With that said, there are three ways to gauge what’s going on.
First: Establish a baseline for someone. Are they fast talkers, hand talkers, usually make eye contact? Collect their element. Second: The hotspot — spotting the deviation, a shift in his shoulder, begins fidgeting, avoids eye contact, touches hair. Third: Ask an opened question, such as ‘Maybe I’m wrong here, but when I mentioned X, you suddenly looked uncomfortable…’
When you ask a question, you get out of the mind reading business, and you actually build rapport. You can even do this if you don’t know the person really well. It will help out the relationship. “Is there any reason why….” and that’s where the magic happens in the relationship.
DG: Yikes! Calling someone out on their behavior sounds really uncomfortable…
CU: It takes courage to step into that uncomfortable zone, but what I always say, ‘live in the awkward!’ Ask those questions that you are a bit uncomfortable asking, it’s OK! It connects people and builds rapport. Remember when we are talking about body language we are talking about perception. So the question is, are you coming across with a high value or a low value, or is your body language undermining your ability to come across with confidence.
DG: Let’s talk more about those small gestures… other little clues that we should be paying attention to during communication…
CU: There are 7 universal emotions: anger, contempt, disgust, fear, surprise, happy, and sad. A micro expression is an involuntary flash of emotion that happens within 1/15th of a second. Paying attention to someone’s micro expressions is important. Let’s say you’re at the close of a date, and say to the person, ‘Hey I’d love to see you again,’ and the persons reply has a micro expression of flashing contempt. You don’t know why — so we have to go back to those questions. Only to figure out that perhaps the contempt isn’t about you, it’s about a presentation due at work next week that’s bugging your date or they have work that evening and aren’t available when you are.
DG: So as nerve racking as that would be, you’re going to have to ask those follow up questions?
CU: Yeah. Why not? What do you have to lose? I think when we can do that, you’ll come across two types of people. People who can be in that space with you, and others who simply can’t. You can do it with kindness and check in, or follow up… and the question can be simple… you’re not going to be like, ‘aha got ya, I see you flashing contempt!!!’
Bringing people into that space is where the rapport builds, and strengthens. You’re creating the opportunity for them to meet you there, developing trust from the get go.
DG: It sounds like a lot more goes into body language that just how you’re sitting or standing?
CU: Yes, and at times, we don’t know that we are giving off more messages then we think. Be aware of your own body language. What are you saying, without even saying a word.
DG: Can you give me examples of what specifically I should be aware of?
CU: Yes, I’ll break it down into a few parts —
1A. Are you giving people the cold shoulder? 1B. How you are shaking hands with people? You should always be the one to put your hand out first, and when you shake someone’s hand make eye contact. 1C. Belly button rule, is the most important — face your belly button in the direction of someone you want to give attention to, it’s a tell.
2. Saying your name to someone— slowing down, especially on the phone. ‘Hello. My name is. Dara. Goldberg.’ And on the flip side, a person’s name is what we liked to be called, and more importantly, what we like to hear. The words we love the most are: please, I love you, thank you, and our name. Be better with names, and use theirs frequently.
3. Spot language they are using in email, texts, or other written forms. You can look at their statements and using Statement Analysis, you can spot distancing language, which is when people use distancing language to distance themselves, example ‘I saw that girl.’ I went out “that night…”
DG: Is there anything else you suggest?
CU: Knowing our gestures have the power to bring people in, or push them away. Being aware of that is crucial. When our gestures and our words are both congruent, it can de-escalate a situation. Also, leave your power zones open. You have three power zones: Neck dimple, belly button, naughty bits. Do not block them. With power zones open you appear more powerful and confident, as it is perceived as you have nothing to hide. At times we do pacifying gestures. A pacifying or self touch gesture is where one part of our body touches another part of our body, i.e. we rub one hand on with the other or hold our wrist showing possible anxiety. “The higher the hold the more anxiety is told”
My biggest take away from this interview: rapport, rapport, rapport. The real secret with body language is building rapport. The skills Chris teaches to his clients is applicable to every aspect of ones life. From said rapport building comes a better dating life, stronger sales connections, enhanced family relationships, etc. Endless.
A huge thank you to Chris, for letting me pick his brain and extract his knowledge — you are brilliant and a total inspiration!