UPDATE: I have written further on this topic. Please check out Why You Should Know the Truth About Topping from the Bottom and Feeding His Dominance is Not Topping from Below.
Topping from the bottom is a misunderstood term in BDSM, especially if you are a novice. The idea behind the term is to help submissives understand their role, and isn't more than a faux pas. During interactions with your Dominant, it's a lesson to know that you can't control what is going on. Topping from the bottom is when you simultaneously adopt both roles. Examples of this could be in the form of giving commands, refusing requests or moving to control the location of impacts during play. Generally, it is frowned upon to try to force the Dominant's hand to do something they do not wish to do.
1. You contradict the decision of your dominant.
If you try to change his or her mind about the decision they have made, without a valid reason, you are topping from the bottom. Examples could range from trying to convince them to use a different toy because you don't like the one they are using, to asking them if they are sure they want to eat at Joe's Restaurant when you really want to eat at Donna's Cafe.
2. You ignore the request or command.
This one goes without saying, but pretending you didn't hear the request and just to carry on doing what you want to do is not appropriate. Acknowledge the request as soon as possible and follow out the command as best you can. You can always go back to what you were doing afterward. The dominant is expecting your service at all times, not just when you want to give it. Topping from the bottom can be non-verbal.
3. You ask "What is in it for me if I do x y z?"
Submission isn't about pleasing you directly. Being directed to do something from your Dominant is to please them, and as my Master always says, "Doing things for me should be your pleasure." Conditional submission is topping from the bottom and should not exist, you either submit or you don't. What you get in return is up to your Dominant. Negotiating this at the beginning of the relationship is critical.
4. You pull away from physical contact.
This is a tough one, but typically in a D/s relationship, you have given over control of your body to your Dominant. This means that if they wish to touch you, that is their right. Telling them with physical withdrawal that you do not wish to be touched is trying to force their decision to touch you. Removing yourself from the situation is topping from the bottom. Learn to accept the attention, no matter what it is; it could develop into a wonderfully intimate time between the two of you.
5. You say "no".*
As a submissive, you may hang on to the right to say no, but if the Dominant gives you a reasonable request and it is within your negotiated terms to do, then you shouldn't say no. Inconveniencing you isn't a valid excuse. Neither is I don't want to. Your Dominant has your better interests at heart, but also their desires. Perform the task and then feel good about it. What you just did may have enhanced your relationship, or you just refreshed their coffee. Either way, life is good.
* No is an important word in a D/s relationship, but one that shouldn't be abused. Just like safewords, this word is only to be used in non-negotiated situations or when something needs to be cleared up first. Remember: use sparingly.
What do you think? Do you know ways to recognize topping from the bottom that aren't on this list?
Again, if you missed it, there are more articles on this topic. Read Why You Should Know the Truth About Topping from the Bottom and Feeding His Dominance is Not Topping from Below!