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A couple of weeks ago I blogged about the NLP technique of Anchoring. You can read the original article “Supercharge your confidence” here.

One reader contacted me to say “Anchoring never seems to work for me” so I promised here I would write another article of top tips for better anchoring and explore some of the objections. And this is it.


Objection: It doesn’t work for me
There are lots of reasons why anchoring might not seem to work, and the first one is your own self-sabotage. It’s important to remember that anchoring works for everyone, humans, dogs and any other animal. Remember Pavlov’s dogs? All we are doing with anchoring, is using repetition and intensity of experience to connect a stimulus (the anchor) to a response (the feeling e.g. confidence that you want to experience).When people say things like “anchoring doesn’t work for me” they are self-sabotaging by setting up a conscious blockage to an unconscious process. I have often seen with my own eyes examples of people who successfully install an anchor and still claim that it doesn’t work, whilst ignoring the evidence! Re-framing can be useful here, and setting up evidence criteria before you start. I sometimes use the question “What will you need to see, hear or feel to know that it has worked for you?”

Objection: I’ve never had confidence
Anchoring requires a strong experience of the emotion or resource to be anchored. The more intense the feeling evoked, the stronger the anchor. Some people can’t remember a time in the past when they experienced the feeling that they want to anchor. In these cases, it can be really effective to use the NLP Frame “Act as if…”

For example, one of our students wanted to anchor a state of confidence with passion. She needed this resource for some public speaking that she was planning to do. However, she couldn’t remember any experiences of feeling this way that were strong enough for her. We asked her who she could think of who demonstrated confidence with passion who could be her model of excellence. She chose Michelle Obama.

In setting up her anchor, we had our student stand the way Michelle stands, to gesture the way Michelle gestures, to speak the way Michelle speaks and to channel her own inner Michelle. In doing so, the brain/body connection kicks in and before long our student began to feel Michelle’s confidence with passion for herself. At that point we anchored the feeling several times, each time having the student acting as if she was Michelle Obama being confident with passion. She was able to use the anchor to great effect when she gave her speech.

Objection: My anchor has stopped working
Sometimes, people create effective anchors, and then complain that they have stopped working. Think in terms of a cash machine – you can only take money out of the cash machine if you have deposited enough in the account in the first place. If you don’t top it up, the account will run dry.

Each time you use your anchor, you are making a withdrawal on your resource bank account. If you use your anchor at a time when you actually need it, like our student using her confidence anchor when she gave a speech in public, then you will actually be topping it up at the same time. This works because the confidence you begin to feel gets re-anchored. On the other hand, if you keep on firing your anchor when you don’t need it, just to “test” it. The feeling will leak away because you are not embodying and intensifying it with your current state.

My advice is to save your anchors for when you really need them, and look for opportunities to top up your anchor in moments when you are feeling the feelings that you have anchored.

I have an anchor for “calm” which I use when I get a bit hyper or stressed. I have used the classic meditation gesture as my trigger (thumbs touch middle finger on both hands). That way, each time I meditate with my hands in that position I am automatically topping up my anchor at the same time.

Objections: It’s just a bit meh…
A wishy-washy anchor can result when one or more of a few key success factors is missing during the anchoring process:

  • Intensity – make sure the feeling that you invoke is as intense as you can possible make it. If you don’t have your own memory to draw on, try “act as if” (described above). If you think of a different memory that makes it stronger, then anchor that too.
  • Uniqueness – make sure that the trigger you choose is ONLY going to be used for this anchor. Common gestures like touching your ear are a poor choice, because you might do that any time. Instead choose something that you will only do when you need to call on your anchor. I like to add a reinforcing phrase or word to ensure uniqueness. For my “calm” anchor, as well as the hand gesture I repeat the word “calm” to myself).
  • Fit for purpose – the trigger you use has to work in the circumstances when you are going to use it. Imaging who a violinist who wants a confidence anchor to help them perform in public. It would be no good anchoring confidence to a fist-clenching gesture because their hands will be full of the violin and the bow. Perhaps they might choose a gesture of stretching their fingers against the neck of the violin instead.
  • Repetition – when installing an anchor, repeat the process at least three times before you begin to test it. Repetition plus Intensity really helps to set a solid anchor. Again, remember Pavlov’s dogs. The phenomenon of the dogs’ response to the trigger only began to appear after several repeated occasions.
  • Timing – when installing an anchor, it’s important to connect the feeling to the trigger only when the feeling is at it’s peak. Too soon, or too late, or holding the trigger for too long will all result in anchoring a weak state. Remember to watch out for non-verbal signs that the desired state is at its peak intensity before making the connection. And hold it only for about 5-10 seconds before releasing.

And what about you?
What anchors will be useful to you? What trigger will you choose that suit the situations when you will want to use it?

If you’d like to learn more about anchoring, and how to set them for yourself and for others, then join us for an NLP Diploma or NLP Practitioner course. Learn more at www.brightlightnlp.com

About Madeleine Allen:  The author is a specialist in Leadership,  Communication and Personal Development for business professionals.  An NLP Trainer and Master Practitioner she conducts in-house corporate training (learn more at www.allentraining.co.uk) and public courses in NLP (learn more at www.brightlightnlp.com)