September 8, 2022

NLP Anchoring


NLP Anchoring is how we link 2 things together. 

It forms the basis of how we learn new things. 

We do anchoring all the time, whether we realize it or not. NLP just formalized the process and made it easily accessible. 

Anchoring is considered a fundamental NLP technique and you’ll find it taught at nearly every NLP certification training. 

Once you get the hang of it, you can use it in just about any situation imaginable.

Anchoring Fundamentals

The primary purpose of anchoring is to get in the states that you want so that they’re easily recalled and are able to be used in some other place.

Anchoring has often been associated with the stimulus-response mechanism as highlighted in Pavlov’s dog experiment, however, this is not an accurate description of how anchoring works. 

The stimulus-response mechanism states that there needs to be a discrete external substance applied a multitude of times before the association is made. 

In Pavlov’s dog experiment, the discrete substance was the external bell that rang whenever meat powder was brought out to the dogs. 

When the bell was rung by itself, the dogs had unconsciously linked the ringing of the bell with the meat powder, which caused them to salivate.

Anchoring, on the other hand, is about triggering specific experiences, which are held in a gestalt. The gestalt is made up of various representational systems and we can trigger the gestalt by either artificially adding parts to it or by utilizing what’s naturally occurring outside of the gestalt and combining it with the gestalt. 

“Natural” anchors tend to work very well because whenever you use any part of a gestalt, other parts of the gestalt will come into the mix. In other words, whenever part of that experience is re-experienced, other parts of the experience will be reproduced to some degree.

Any “part” of the desired experience can be used to “grab” other parts of the experience, however, some portions are better than others and some are easier in terms of calling up other parts of the experience. 

Artificial anchors can be added artificially or spontaneously to the experience. 

We can elicit experiences either as emotions, thoughts, mental pictures, or descriptions. Once the experience has been elicited, we can create a unique trigger that associates the 2 of them so that whenever the trigger is fired off, the experience follows. 

The strongest and most reliable anchors are made of an intense experience combined with a unique trigger. The more often the anchor is repeated, the stronger and more precise the response will be.

If you want to see NLP Anchoring in action, check out this video by NLPTimes.

State Elicitation

Contrary to popular belief, the last thing you need to focus on when it comes to anchoring is anchoring itself. 

Many people get this backward. 

They think that it’s about touching people a certain way, or it’s some kind of special trick that makes anchoring work. 

In order to bring out the full potential in anchoring, you need to get good at state elicitation. 

If you’re lacking a strong state, then what are you going to anchor?

In order to evoke powerful states out of other people, you must work on your own state first.

If you want to manage your state well, pay attention to your blood sugar. If your blood sugar is out of whack, you’re going to have a hard time controlling your state. 

Your state is more important than the words you say.

Studies show that 93% of communication is nonverbal, and only 7% deals with the words we say.

If you want to evoke strong states in others, you must learn to use your language evocatively, rather than prescriptively.

You might rub some people the wrong way and that’s ok.

You don’t have to be liked to be effective.

Be willing to set your own personal biases to the side when it comes to helping your clients.

If you allow the limitations of your personality to get in the way of where you have to go, then your clients will only go as far as you have.

How far are you willing to go with your clients?

When you want to evoke a state out of someone, make sure you’re in that state yourself. 

Ask yourself these 2 questions before eliciting states from others: 

  • What kinds of states do I want to elicit from people?

  • What kinds of states would be useful to draw out for the outcomes I have with my clients?

If you have access to a limited number of states, you’re going to have a hard time eliciting a variety of states from other people.

Stacking Anchors vs. Chaining Anchors

There may be times when you want to shift someone’s state and it may not be possible for them to jump from their current state to the desired state. 

In such cases, you may have to identify a few intermediary states between the current state and the desired state to make it easier to take action.

This is what is known as “chaining anchors”.

First, you start with the desired state and then you work your way backward.

Once you’ve identified all of the intermediary states, you start by anchoring the current state and work your way up to the desired state. 

Make sure to test each anchor to ensure they elicit a strong state. 

The ultimate goal of chaining anchors is to teach people how to quickly move from one state to another. 

“Stacking anchors” are used for developing a stronger or more robust state. 

You take multiple states and associate them with the same anchor.

How to Use Anchoring In Persuasion

There are countless possibilities when it comes to using anchoring in persuasion. 

Before we get into the application, it’s important to understand that anchoring and persuasion is not something you do to people, but with people. It’s a cooperative act. 

If you want to persuade someone to a different position, there are a couple of ways you can go about this. You can either get them to recognize that what you’re saying is truthful or valid, they like you as a person, and/or they find you trustworthy. 

You can make other people more open to what you have to say by showing them that you’re human and you’re not trying to twist their arm.

When asking questions, entertain points of view and perspectives that you actively disagree with. It will show the other person that you’re open-minded and they’re likely to reciprocate. 

It’s important to structure what you’re doing so that you achieve the desired outcome. You also need to take into account the other person’s NLP strategy and what needs to occur inside of that person in order for them to change their mind or make a decision. 

Let’s say you ask someone what their ideal outcome is. As they’re explaining it, you pay attention to their nonverbal behavior. You can then mirror their behavior as you explain why you’re the best person to achieve their desired outcome.

NLP Anchoring Best Practices

When working with other people, you need to have a TOTE to know where you’re going. 

TOTE refers to the TOTE Model, which is an iterative problem-solving strategy based on feedback loops. The TOTE helps you determine whether you’re moving towards the desired state or away from it.

It’s important to note that the step-by-step procedures you can learn in a training or in a book are not how you work with people. It’s how you learn. 

When working with other people, the most important thing is how you relate to others. 

Sometimes, the best work you do with your clients happens before the session even starts. 

Communication is like a “dance” between 2 people and you need to be able to alter what you’re doing when the time calls for it.

In NLP, we act as “refined feedback machines”. Your questions should be framed based on the feedback you’re getting from your clients. The purpose of asking questions is to get people to go into their own experience. 

Once you’ve worked with enough people, you’ll notice that there are only a handful of patterns and strategies you need to be aware of. It’s your job to find them. 

In regards to timing an anchor, many people worry about getting this right.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. 

I recommend getting good at observing other people.

Everyone is different. 

Some people flare up quickly and go out. For other people, the “pressure” builds up over time.


neuro-linguisitic programming, NLP, nlp anchoring

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