“Anchoring” is one of the fundamental tools of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) which can be powerful in helping you to have more confidence, and enthusiasm and be more relaxed when meeting people.
It’s a simple way to allow you to change an unwanted feeling to a resourceful feeling in a matter of moments. When you create a Neuro Linguistic Programming anchor you set up a stimulus-response pattern so that you can feel the way you want to, when you need to.
In NLP, “anchoring” refers to the process of associating an internal response with some external or internal trigger so that the response may be quickly, and sometimes covertly, re-accessed.
Anchoring is a process that’s similar to the “conditioning” technique used by Pavlov (do you remember hearing about the experiment performed by Pavlov to create a link between the hearing of a bell and salivation in dogs?) By associating the sound of a bell with the act of giving food to his dogs, Pavlov found he could eventually just ring the bell and the dogs would start salivating, even though no food was given. In the behaviourist’s stimulus-response conditioning formula, however, the stimulus is always an environmental cue and the response is always a specific behavioural action. The association is considered reflexive and not a matter of choice (the dogs don’t choose to salivate, it is an automatic conditioned response).
In NLP this type of associative conditioning has been expanded to include links between other aspects of experience than purely environment cues and behavioural responses. A remembered photo or image may become an anchor for a particular internal feeling, for instance. A voice tone may become an anchor for a state of excitement or confidence. A person may consciously choose to establish and re-trigger these associations for themselves. Rather than being a mindless knee-jerk reflex, an anchor becomes a tool for self-empowerment. Anchoring can be a very useful tool for helping to establish and reactivate the mental processes associated with creativity, learning, concentration and other important resources.
Why call it ‘anchoring’?
The anchor of a ship or boat is attached by the members of the ship’s crew to some stable point in order to hold the ship in a certain area and keep it from floating away. The implication of this is that the cue which serves as a psychological “anchor” is not so much a mechanical stimulus which “causes” a response as it is a reference point that helps to stabilize a particular state. To extend the analogy fully, a ship could be considered the focus of our consciousness on the ocean of experience. Anchors serve as reference points which help us to find a particular location on this experiential sea and to hold our attention there and keep it from drifting.
Imagine what it would be like if you could, in a moment, go from feeling anxious to feeling decisive and absolutely capable right in the middle of a stressful interview when all eyes are on you, or dealing with an individual you struggle to get along with.
Basic NLP Anchoring
So let’s have a go. This takes a little practice, a quiet space while you practice and get the hand of it but it will soon become second nature…
- Select a feeling that you would like to have in a particular situation.
(For example, you might want to feel motivated and energized when you sit down at your desk to work on your business.)
- Take a few moments to remember a time when you had that feeling.
Be sure to choose a strong example.
If you don’t have one in your past, imagine what it would be like to feel this way.
- Close your eyes and remember that feeling in vivid detail.
Put yourself back there now and relive it in all its intensity.
To enhance the experience you can experiment with the following:
- make the image sharper
- make the colours brighter
- bring the image closer
- shift the image position on your mental screen
- make the sounds clearer
- choose a word that enhances the feeling
(for example, “Yes!”, ” Brilliant!”, etc.)
When your feeling is at its most intense, create a physical association by making a unique gesture (for example, squeeze your thumb, make a fist, press your middle finger and thumb together or pull your earlobe).
- As the feeling fades, release your ‘anchor’ and relax.
- Choose another example of having that feeling and repeat the procedure (steps 3-5).
Use the same gesture.
- Choose a third example and anchor the feeling to the same gesture.
- Check the clock and see how long that took.
- Fire off your anchor and check if the feeling comes back.
- If the feeling is not intense enough, repeat the procedure.
The Usefulness of NLP Anchoring
- In a situation when you need to feel that way, set off your physical anchor by making the gesture.
- If a situation is coming up that requires this kind of feeling, mentally rehearse dealing with that situation while firing off your anchor. Repeat it until you feel confident.
- You can STACK or link several anchors to one gesture if you’d like a combination of feelings at once. Just repeat the above instructions for each separate feeling but be sure to use the same gesture each time.
Often there are particular situations or people in your life that automatically have a negative effect on your frame of mind.
Here’s how to neutralize (or collapse) these negative anchors:
- Identify the situation that elicits the unwanted feeling.
- Select a feeling you’d prefer to experience in this particular situation and create a positive anchor for it (per the instructions above).
- Check the time.
- Think of the negative situation, then set off the positive anchor. Keep doing this until you feel neutral about the formerly negative situation.
- Do this in the real world as soon as possible.
People as Anchors
Do you think of people as ‘making’ you feel good or bad? Here’s how that works.
You have a friend whose company you always enjoy. She listens to you when you need to discuss a problem, compliments you on handling difficult situations and basically sees you as worthwhile, talented and a wonderful person. You light up when you see her. Why? Because those good feelings she elicits in you are anchored to the sight of her face and the sound of her voice.
Conversely, you have a relative who is always negative. He belittles your efforts and sees you as a loser and you find yourself feeling that way whenever he’s around. Your self-esteem takes a nosedive when you see his car pull into your driveway. His presence, or even just the mental image of him, has become an anchor for feelings of inadequacy.
I first utilised this when I was a Manager and a certain member of staff arrived at work which elicited a sinking feeling and a dampening of my mood. Using this technique, in time this reaction disappeared and my mood stayed upbeat making a huge positive impact on my working day.
Invest some time into practising this technique, once you have the anchor up and running it will take no effort and can make a huge impact on your confidence both in your daily life and also your professional life.
For further information on how life coaching tools and techniques can enhance your life experience, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to book a completely free, no-obligation 30-minute call. I look forward to speaking to you.
Jayne Warwicker BSC – Founder of the Lioness Power Life Coaching system.