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 being ordered to do that service). Service I will simply define here as the practically-executed completion of real, non-sexual 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, whereas I see service-oriented people as generally more likely to find the service itself rewarding and use punishment, if they do, as a method of communication more than control.

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 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 a hundred-percent service or a hundred-percent control, nor is the service within them (assuming there is a service component) a hundred-percent reactive or a 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. We’re both pretty control and service oriented in some ways; though service is perhaps more at the core of our relationship, we still have a level of protocol that surprises some people. This side of things is what I find fulfilling, but I enjoy talking about all of it because they’re interesting concepts.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s