NLP Techniques: Anchoring

Submitted by Craig on Tue, 04/25/2017 - 01:33

The Idea:

In NLP, the process of anchoring is central to producing potentially permanent change. We owe a debt to Ivan Pavlov, for making famous the notion that stimuli can lead to a certain behavioral response. Pavlov took dogs in a state of hunger, and rang a bell just before spraying meat powder into the dogs' mouths. After a few rounds, the dogs began to salivate at the sound even when there was no meat powder. NLP takes conditioning into the real human world, however. In NLP, an anchor is a certain precise stimulus delivered in a peak emotional state to link powerfully to an underlying meaning within our neurology.

Think of an anchor as a button that can be pushed by oneself or someone else any time we desire a certain response. Think of a certain voice that when you hear it can make your blood pressure rise. Think of a song that makes you remember your high school days. Think of a food that send you running to the bathroom. Think of the perfume reminds you of your first romance. These are all anchors, powerfully linked to a neurological meaning. These are the buttons. Once installed, those buttons are always available to be pushed. In order to uninstall an old button, or install a new button, we must be in a peak emotional state at the time, and at that moment the underlying meaning to which the button is linked must also be evoked.

When we choose an anchor to install, there are four characteristics that make that anchor a good choice:

  • Intensity: intensity of the feelings of the state at the time of being anchored
  • Purity: the distinctiveness of the state being anchored
  • Uniqueness: the more unusual the anchor, the less light leak it is to be pushed by accident
  • Timing: install the anchor when a person's state reaches its peak

The mnemonic of IPUT, can help you member these qualities.

The Pattern:

NLP Anchoring

1. Identify behavior, state, or response you want to access in the future, and a suitable anchor

  • What is the behavior or state you want to be able to produce on demand?
  • What kind of an anchor could we use that is obvious to you but discrete to everyone else?

2. Elicit the desired state

  • Invite the person to remember, imagined, or think about the desired state, and experience it fully, now.
  • Determine whether the person can make the state intense enough on their own to anchor it successfully.

3. Calibrate the person in the state, and amplify it

  • What are you feeling now?
  • What are the unique qualities of this state?
  • Now take those feelings and double them, and double them again!
  • Make the pictures bolder, brighter and closer!
  • Make this sounds louder, clearer and in stereophonic surroundsound!
  • Take the good feeling and spin it faster and faster!
  • Now stand and breathe confidently!

4. Install the anchor

  • Once the person has reached a peak state, and you can easily discern it I calibrate a make the noise, say the word, touch the arm, or make a face that will serve as the anchor in the future. Remember intensity, purity, uniqueness and timing.

5. Break state and test the anchor

  • ask, which we did you drive to get here this morning? Nice weather today, isn't it?
  • Now, what happens when I do this: (fire off the anchor).
  • When the anchor was fired, did you get the desired response? If yes, you're ready to test in the real world. If no, repeat steps two through four.

When To Use This Pattern:

In your life you can using anchoring to reinforce excellent behavior. Whenever you catch yourself doing something great, amplify the great feelings and then fire off an anchor that you previously selected for its purity and uniqueness. This action will associate the anchor with the neurological meaning underlying those great feelings. Then, in the future when you need to access this state again, you can fire the anchor and it will be there for you.

Use the Anchoring pattern with your clients, during interventions when new state-dependent behaviors are being installed. This works great in relationships, when seeing their partners should evoke a good feeling. Having an anchor associated to a good feeling can put your client in a good state in a flash, whenever he or she needs it.


Richard Bandler, John Grinder, Michael Hall, and others.