Neuro-linguistic Programming defines anchoring as an internal or external representation that will trigger another representation. It relies on the Stimulus-Response concept, where a particular stimulus will elicit a memory, behavior or feeling. The Neuro-linguistic Programming cofounders Bandler and Grinder found a practical application for classical conditioned responses by using the anchor or the triggering stimulus to move experiences around in time and space.
Human beings generate different internal and external responses in terms of states, behaviors, thoughts and feelings in accordance to a particular stimulus. Some of these responses are beyond our awareness. In Neuro-linguistic programming, anchoring is defined as the natural process in which one element or sensory component of an event recreates the whole experience.
For example, when we approach a traffic signal and see the yellow light turn on, we slow down. When we see the red light turn on, we immediately put our foot on the brake. Over time, this becomes an unconscious process and is triggered whenever we see the traffic signal.
Another example of Neuro-linguistic anchoring, is that sometimes certain smells take us back to an experience in the past. If you have associated the pleasant memory of a family dinner in the past with a certain smell of food, when you come across that smell you immediately remember, see, hear and feel that pleasant experience.
Developing the Art of Effective Anchoring
Neuro-linguistic anchoring happens all the time in our lives, and is not a new concept. Its just that we don’t realize that anchoring is taking place. Therefore anchoring usually occurs outside our conscious awareness. Anchoring can be used as a powerful communication tool in Neuro-linguistic courses. Using Neuro-linguistic training, we can learn how to use anchoring technique in a strategic and systematic manner.
When we come across a trigger, all our representational systems are activated. In some Neuro-linguistic courses, this is called a 4-tuple system, instead of 5-tuple, where olfactory and gustatory senses are combine into one. Therefore, as per the Neuro-linguistic courses, 4-tuple represents the VAKO representational system. Even if one of these representations is triggered, we will be able to recall the whole experience.
Practitioners trained in Neuro-linguistic Programming regard life as a combination of consciously selected anchors and conditioned responses. Anchors are found everywhere, and our life is full of them. Advertisements commonly use visual and auditory anchors. Sometime the wordings of an ad form such a strong anchor that you can remember the wordings when you hear a similar tune. TV and radio shows also use anchoring to keep the viewer or listener coming back. Sometimes we associate a visual anchor to an activity such as reducing speed when we see the traffic signal.
Sometimes we might associate certain experiences with negative anchors. For example, if during a funeral, people hug a person, the person might associate the act of hugging to grief. Then even after a long period, a hug might trigger a sense of loss and grief. This is the case of an accidental anchor and needs to be removed using Neuro-linguistic courses. Negative anchors can also be set in between partners, resulting in frequent problems. Therapists trained in Neuro-linguistic courses can teach such couples how to set positive anchors and form the basis of a good relationship.
Neuro-linguistic anchoring technique is a powerful tool for conditioning using Neuro-linguistic training. The Neuro-linguistic Programming cofounders Bandler and Grinder stated that by changing the kinesthetic responses of the clients to visual and auditory stimuli, around 90% of the clients could be cured.
By understanding the Neuro-linguistic process of anchoring, we can realize that first impression usually becomes the last impression, once the anchor is set. By being aware of how we set anchors in others and in ourselves, we can take control of the process. We can then set positive anchors in ourselves and in others, so that we can achieve an outcome or create an environment of excellence and candor.
Anchoring is derived from Pavlov’s theory of stimulus response, but there lies a key difference between the two. Stimulus-response usually needs further reinforcement, whereas anchoring can be created at the first attempt itself. Using the stimulus-response model, a positive behavior can be integrated into consciousness only after repeating it several times. As a contrast, a properly set anchor can get an immediate response thereby demonstrating the one-trial learning theory of Neuro-linguistic programming. This technique can be mastered using Neuro-linguistic training.
We create an anchor representation every time we communicate with another person. We use sounds and visual symbols to represent an experience, or to trigger past memories, feelings, ideas, thoughts and representations. Fictional novels use verbal anchoring to create images, sounds, smells, feeling and sensations for the reader. Good communicators always use the anchoring techniques taught by Neuro-linguistic training to attach states, representations and experiences.
According to Neuro-linguistic programming, five steps can be used to perform anchoring on a client:
1. Establish rapport with the client using mirroring and matching techniques
2. Explain the anchoring process and ask permission to use kinesthetic anchors
3. Elicit an intense state and anchor the desired experience when the client is fully associated with it
4. Interrupt the state so that the client comes out of the state
5. Test the anchor by firing the trigger and see if the desired experience is achieved
The Four Keys to Anchoring
The anchoring technique is not complex, but you need to follow a few systematic and precise steps. It can be learnt using Neuro-linguistic training. There are four keys for performing Neuro-linguistic anchoring using:
In order to set a permanent anchor, a unique stimulus must be used. Stimulus such as shaking hands cannot be used as an anchor as it is a general behavior. A handshake lacks the basic uniqueness required for establishing an anchor. When a stimulus or location is so unique that it cannot be found in our daily lives, it is the best type of trigger possible for setting an anchor that lasts for a long time.
In case of using kinesthetic anchors, identify all the aspects of the stimulus such as the pressure, location, size and length of touch used. Choose a location that can be accessed later on with the same precision. Avoid using clothing as a reference, as it may change for the next meeting.
In case of self-anchoring, choose a stimulus that is comfortable for you but unique enough. An example for self-anchoring is squeezing the earlobe or joining the thumb and little finger.
The anchor should be set during the highest intensity of a state. Anchors are dependent on the state. Hence when a person is experiencing an intense state, the anchoring function is enhanced as well, and it becomes easy to re-fire similar intensity of the state when the anchored stimulus is triggered.
The intensity of a state identifies how vivid, strong, big, clear or emotional the person feels during that state. As an example, clients are asked to remember a resourceful state. When the client accesses this state and become completely associated with it, an anchor is dropped.
Neuro-linguistic Programming techniques suggest that the person is in an associative state of the experience rather than the dissociative state when placing an anchor, since we do not want to remove all emotions from the experience.
Purity for an anchor means that the anchor should be as discrete as possible and not have any competing experiences. That means when a person is trying to access a resourceful state, it should not be mixed with any other states, with contradictory thoughts or contaminating emotions. Purity of a state is its distinctness.
The person recalling a resourceful state should not be having an internal dialogue that is conflicting to the state being accessed. You will need to amplify, focus and purify the state being accessed. When a state is at its full intensity, there are no other states present to weaken its intensity.
Precision refers to the exact time when the anchor is set. You need to identify and capture the exact timing for placing an anchor. For example, when a person reaches the maximum intensity of a state, the anchor should be applied. You should release the anchor just before the state starts reducing in intensity, otherwise a lower intensity state or some other state will be associated with the anchor. Holding an anchor for excessive time might result in contaminating the state, as the person might enter some undesirable state. You must use your sensory acuity skills to determine the exact time and duration for applying the anchor.
The process of anchoring can be used to create a certain state within a person. Anchors should also be reinforced to enhance their effectiveness. This can be done by stacking anchors, by putting extra resourceful states over an anchored resourceful state. The anchor become stronger, and generates a more positive state. Anchors can also be refreshed periodically to reinforce the resourceful state.