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NLP Anchoring:
A Powerful Unconscious Resource

Anchoring is one of the most useful nlp techniques developed by Bandler and Grinder, it's a method for using the powerful unconscious resources of others to get the responses you desire.

It is the process by which a memory, a feeling or some other response is associated with (anchored to) something else. Anchoring is a natural process that usually occurs without our awareness. For examole, when you were young, you undoubdtedly participated in family activities that gave you great pleasure. The pleasure was assssociated with the activity itself, so when you think of the activity or are reminded of it you tend to re-experience some pleasurable feeling. In this way anchors are reactivated or, triggered.

NLP Anchoring Examples in Everyday Life

Here are a few examples:

  • Flicking through an old family photo album stirs pleasant memories and some of the feelings associated with them.

  • An old love song re-awakens a romantic mood.

  • The smell of freshly baked apple pies brings back memories of a happy care-free childhood.

The Power of NLP Anchoring

NLP anchoring is a process that goes on around and within us all the time, whether we are aware of it or not. Most of the time we are not aware of it, which makes it a much more powerful force in our lives. NLP training enables you to take counscious partecipation in establishing/removing anchors within yourself and/or others.

Anchoring is also used by skillful film makers to evoke suspense in the audience. Think of your own psychological changes that occurred when you heard the soundtrack’s amplified, pounding heartbeat rhythm in the moments leading up to each of the appearances of the huge killer shark in the movie ‘Jaws.’ What anchor was established in you by the crescendo of the sound of the music meeting the shark? Did your heartbeat increase? Did your palms begin to sweat? Did you have to see the shark, or was the thumping music enough to start your slide to the edge of your seat?

Leitmotivs —recurring themes— in music and literature also serve to restimulate a previously established response.

This same anchoring process appears naturally and spontaneously in our dealings with others, and often determines the outcome of these interactions.

An Example of NLP Anchoring From Real-Life Salesmanship

Before taking a client to see a house, California real estate dealer Gael Himmah always visits the property owners for the purpose of discovering the ‘emotional appeal’ their homes particularly hold for them. Who else could better know? “what,” he asks, “do you like best about your home? What features mean the most to you? One answer given in an especially run down house, led to an incident that reveals the powerful effects of the emotional recollections.

His question to the women of the house led to a trip into the kitchen where she pointed proudly out of the window towards a colourless, run down garage. In the springtime, “I plant sweet peas in that bed. There’s something in the soil, and the temperature against the side of the garage, we’re not sure what causes it, but the sweet peas grow all over the side of the garage and onto the roof and they’re the biggest sweet peas anyone has evcer seen. People from all over come to see our sweet peas,” she explained.

Himmah now had his emotional feature neatly tucked away, and before too long he had the house sold to another couple. Some time later, he returned to find out from the new owners just what had prompted them to buy. In this case, however, he was not prepared for the husband’s angry answer.

“Do you now what you’ve done to me?” he asked, his voice seething with menace.

“I just wandered how you like your new house?” I countered.

He wasn’t having any. “Do you now what you’ve done to me?” he repeated.

“Not really,” I said. It was a totally honest statement. I didn’t have the slightest idea what he was talking about. Buyers can get strange.

“You and your damn sweet peas,” he exploded. “That’s all my wife could talk about after you showed us this house. Those damn sweet peas. When she was a little girl in New Jersey, she and her mother used to plant sweet peas and Iceland poppies every year. They took care of them together. She hadn’t seen sweet peas since we moved to California ten years ago.”

“This spring,” he went on, fire in his eyes. “I’m going to have to send an airline ticket to my mother in law in New Jersey and she’s flying out here and she and my wife are going to plant those damn sweet peas and she’s going to stay all summer with us to watch them grow.” By this time he was breathless, the thought of his mother in law’s prolonged visit working him into a rage.

How We Anchor And Are Anchored

When we are with another person which experiences some strong emotion, whatever we are doing or saying becomes associated with that emotion. Usually this process occurs at the unconscious level. Subsequently, whenever we do or say the same thing in the same way in his presence we will tend to re-stimulate for him/her some portion of the previous feeling.

Being aware of this phenomenon through knowledge of neurolinguistic programming enables us to be aware of the kinds of responses we are anchoring in others, how we are doing it, and conversely, what kinds of responses are being anchored in ourselves and how. This awareness enables us to anchor for mutually productive outcomes.

How To Elicit Desired Responses With NLP

The process of eliciting and re-eliciting desired responses from bosses, clients, friends, or spouses is a fairly simple one. Ask the particular individual involved to recall a past experience that is likely to contain the desired response. For example – if you want the other person to experience a pleasure response ask him/her to recall a pleasant incident. In doing so, the person will bring up, with that memory, many of the feelings felt at the time of the incident.

The purpose of eliciting certain responses is to establish a more favourable and receptive ground for communicating your ideas effectively. The person’s state of mind – his/her feelings, the things he/she is attending to (both consciously and unconsciously) will be of critical significance with regard to how they receive your ideas and suggestions. By eliciting the kinds of responses you want when you present your idea, you increase the chances of having your idea favourably received and acted on. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever tried to sell anything, but even the most sophisticated salesperson often ignores this basic fact.

The Process of Anchoring With NLP

1) Wait for the desired response to occur spontaneously, or evoke the response by making appropriate suggestions or by asking questions such as:

  • “What excites you about…..?”

  • “What do you like about…..?”

  • “Can you recall the last time you felt….?”

By asking the other person to recall a specific experience, some of the feelings associated with that memory will be reactivated and can then be nlp-anchored.

2) Anchor the response with the following nlp technique: when the response reaches its peak anchor it with some behaviour of your own, such as one or more of the following:

  • Verbal marking (“That’s a great story!”)

  • A touch on the other person’s arm

  • A sound, such as snapping your fingers, or a particular expressive facial expression.

3) Trigger the anchor at the desired moment by performing exactly the same action as in step two (in the case of the verbal anchor, you might change the wording to “Let me tell you a great story!” In any case, the anchor here is primarily the word ‘great’ and should itself suffice as an anchor).

‘Practice Makes Perfect’

NLP anchoring, like any new skill, requires a certain amount of practice. Practice anchoring good feelings on your family, friends and business associates. It will make both them and you feel good. It will also enable you eventually to do it unconsciously and appropriately to create a more receptive climate for your ideas and suggestions.

When you’ve learned to time your anchoring correctly, you should be able to anchor a response with only one attempt. In the meantime, just enjoy the pleasure of practising a new skill that will give you and the people you live and work with many happy hours. With experience, you will be able to effectively and appropriately anchor responses without even thinking about it, which is the ultimate goal.

An effectively established nlp anchor will last until some stronger emotional event intervenes to weaken the response. If this happens, simply re-establish the anchor in the same manner.

A Word of Advice...

As nlp anchoring is such a powerful process, and therefore of all the techniques known so far offers the greatest opportunity for misuse —manipulation in the negative sense of the word— you are advised to be particularly careful when and how you use it. Remember misused tools have a habit of boomeranging or blowing up in your face. Your self-respect is one of your greatest assets, if you lose it, you really do lose a lot.

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