Control/Service-Oriented and Anticipatory/Reactive Service

While service oriented and control oriented are two distinct ways of approaching submission, anticipatory and reactive service are two distinct approaches to service that can be a part of either orientation—here I discuss the meanings and correlations as I see them, with ideas from how I commonly see the phrases discussed.

Service oriented I see as a focus on and fulfillment from what you do in a way (the service itself), whereas control oriented is a focus on and fulfillment from how (such as that service being wrapped in protocol). Service I will simply define for the purposes of this post as the practically executed completion of real, nonsexual tasks done to make someone’s life easier.

Control oriented people I see as generally more likely to have a focus on things like rewards and punishments as a form of control and conditioning, whereas I see service oriented people as generally more likely to find the service itself rewarding and use punishment, if they do, more as a method of communication, with a focus on feedback.

Anticipatory service I see as service that is done without a direct order. Refilling the coffee cup before being told to, for example.

Reactive service I see as service that is done following a direct order, like refilling the coffee cup after being told to.

There are some things that kind of ride the line between anticipatory and reactive, such as following standing orders or a repeating list of tasks. If you make a pot of coffee every day without prompting, but you were to told make a pot of coffee every day, a year ago—is that anticipatory or reactive? What if a year ago you were told to always refill the coffee cup before it’s down to a third of the way full, and now do it without any prompting? The answer is probably somewhere between it depends and both, and neither.

Realistically, a lot of dynamics aren’t one-hundred percent service or one-hundred percent control, nor is the service within them (assuming there is a service component) one-hundred percent reactive or one-hundred percent anticipatory. Hence I define things as what the focus is on.

So how do these ideas correlate?

Many think—and I agree—that control oriented and reactive service match up fairly naturally, as do service oriented and anticipatory service. Anticipatory service leaves room to focus on the tasks themselves, the wonderful mix of art and science of serving. Reactive service gives a sense of control with the tasks; you get more direct interaction and can focus on why you’re doing the tasks as they come up, the beautiful sense of surrendering control to another.

Now, I also believe it can easily go the other way for the service oriented. Service oriented people can get their joy out of making someone’s life easier, and they can easily track results and patterns and smiles in a reactive service setting; they know they are being helpful if they are acting on specific instructions. Control oriented people looking to do more anticipatory service might take interest in the style I mentioned above that kind of rides the anticipatory/reactive line; having standing expectations is a good type of control for some.

Why are these things important? Other than just interesting, they’re useful in conversation, both to discuss some general ideas and when people are looking for compatibility. Being aware of these concepts can help fuel discussions and provide a deeper understanding of what is wanted, and what is compatible with those wants.

So, where do I fall on this spectrum? Personally I’m pretty far down the anticipatory service side. We do use the repeating task lists style in addition to more straightforward anticipatory service, and there is some reactive service—but Mistress sometimes jokes it’s rare she gets the chance to order me to do something before I do it.

We’re both pretty control and service oriented in some ways; though service is perhaps more at the core of our relationship, and I place more value on it in a way, being objectively useful, we’re also high protocol—dressing service up as pleasing. I think I am more likely to enjoy service without protocol than protocol without service. This side of things is what I find fulfilling, but I enjoy talking about all of it because they’re interesting concepts.

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