The ability to control and lead ourselves relies on us being able to manage our emotional state in a variety of situations. Effective leaders intuitively know how to“anchor” desired emotions and build a raised state of confidence when needed.

Anchoring is a technique that encourages us to recall past times when we have felt a positive feeling and then enable us to recall and associate this with a current situation (for example when we are just about to make an important sales presentation).  In effect it brings us into a desired emotional state, to handle a situation as we would most wish to.  Anchoring is just one of the techniques used within NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming).

The origins of anchoring actually go back to the early 1900s

You may have heard of Pavlov’s experiments with a salivating dog?

Ivan Pavlov was interested in the digestion of dogs, for which research he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1904. In the course of his investigations, Pavlov noticed that the dogs would often start salivating before any food was given to them. This led to a study where it was found that by systematically pairing the sound of a bell with food being provided to the dog, then eventually the sound of the bell alone would make the dog salivate. The bell had become a “conditioned stimulus” for the salivation of the dog. The dog had been conditioned to salivate on the ringing of a bell.

NLP built on this historical psychological concept (known as classical conditioning) to develop the confidence building technique we call anchoring. As discussed earlier, within this technique previous positive experiences are built as resources and associated with an act – for example touching a knuckle on your hand or saying a phrase. Individuals can then re-access the positive emotional states by setting off the trigger. An anchor is basically a stimulus that triggers a consistent response within us in certain key situations.

The ability to use anchors can enable us to:

  • Access resources we need when we choose
  • Replace unwanted feeling and states of mind with resourceful ones
  • Gain greater control over our emotions
  • Positively influence the response we trigger in others
  • Experience events as we would wish to

Gaining control of our emotional states and finding greater confidence is crucial in a number of highly pressurised circumstances.  Work on building a bank of positive experiences and find your own triggers to bring back the positive states associated with these, to create the strongest emotional states for new situations.