This is part two of the Anticipatory Service series, if you'd like to read part one, check out Exploring Service Motivations: How a Mocktail Made Me Service-Oriented.
Service exists, like most things, on a spectrum. Real Service, a service-oriented handbook by Raven Kaldera and Joshua Tenpenny, holds that at one end of the spectrum is “reactive service,” and at the other is “proactive service.” We can think of “reactive service” and “proactive service” as points spaced apart on either side of a line, where the line, itself, represents the amount of involvement the Dominant has in the service.
Reactive service is a service that is in response to immediate demand. In reactive service, a direct order is given, and the specified service is rendered in response. This is why the service is “ reactive”—it is in reaction to a specific demand, order, or command.
Conversely, proactive service involves slightly more latitude. In these cases, the submissive or slave (henceforth referred to as “servant”) has (hopefully) committed to memory and practice any standing orders given to them. Standing orders are orders that are always in effect. The term “standing orders” refers to anything expected of a servant that the servant is required to keep track of and maintain indefinitely, often without direct supervision or reminders. Standing orders, in many dynamics, come to make up the status quo. For instance, a servant may have standing orders to; always greet their counterpart at the door, prepare coffee every morning, keep the house clean, keep the lawn manicured, or do any number of tasks in perpetuity. Following these orders helps to maintain the dynamic from their side of it.
In addition to memorizing and practicing standing orders, in proactive service, the servant often, also, has the reasoning ability to conduct their tasks and challenges in the manner the Dominant or Master (henceforth referred to simply as “Master”) would prefer. This is true even in cases where direct supervision and communication regarding tasks are impossible. The servant can perform in such a way because of their explicit internalization of the Master’s preferences and views. To become capable of this type of proactive service usually requires extensive knowledge of the Master and, therefore, adequate time in the dynamic.
The Central Challenge of Anticipatory Service
At the furthest reaches of proactive service resides “anticipatory service.” Some Masters love anticipatory service but downright hated by others. In any case, it is regarded with the same trepidation and awe as a quadruple lutz in figure skating—it’s stunning but incredibly challenging to nail effectively and correctly. There are many challenges faced by servants who aspire towards successful anticipatory service.
A central challenge is that, in anticipatory service, there’s a complicated learning process, and in learning, you will sometimes make mistakes. This is because anticipatory service is an art of extrapolating past data (collected information) to estimate, predict, and fulfill future desires. When you are serving based upon estimations and predictions (rather than the concrete facts and demands which exist in “reactive service,” where your Master says “I want water,” and you fetch water), you will sometimes miss the mark.
When you inevitably do, the most important thing is that you accept failure gracefully. Do not take it personally that your service isn’t needed or wanted at that moment. Instead, recognize that perhaps ordinarily, your service would have been quality service, but the data was incorrect, or the extrapolation was wrong, or the prediction was incorrect.
Because anticipatory service is so specific about the details_ _of service, it has a high likelihood of failure. For instance, to provide anticipatory service, it is entirely possible to prepare the correct service, in the right way, at the correct place, for the right reason, but at the incorrect time, and, for the time to be the cause of complete failure. You should accept that anticipatory service is a difficult skill to master, and you may not succeed every time.
Try to accept this before you attempt anticipatory service. This way, if you are not successful in your attempts, you can take it in stride and move seamlessly to the next task expected of you. This will prevent service interruptions.
As immediately as possible, it is best to respond to your Master’s refusal with an affirmation that you have heard and understood that you have acted in error. In high protocol, this may require the use of a phrase similar to “Sir. Yes, sir.” or “Beg your pardon, sir.” Or, both. In more casual situations, you may simply say, “Yes, of course.” or “My mistake, I apologize.”
Accept that your approach was unsolicited and undesired. Clean up or otherwise correct the situation, returning it to the environment it was, before your approach. Then, resume your duties as expected or commanded.
Listen to your Master. Allow them to tell you which step in the process failed. This will make you a better servant.
If they do not tell you, you may find an appropriate time to ask. Or, you may “go back to the drawing board” as they say, and take a break from trying to anticipate your Master’s desires, opting instead to reinvestigate by observing and collecting more information. In this time, you should focus on gathering specific information about when, where, why, and how it is appropriate to meet that particular desire, which was the focus of your failed attempt.
You will occasionally make mistakes; you must make every effort not to turn anticipatory service into a mere “trial and error” endeavor. Do not simply go, “Ah, I failed in this instance, so I will try again tomorrow!” without doing the necessary footwork to figure out why it failed and how to fix it. This shows disregard for the complexity of the Master and is a disfavor to the skill of anticipatory service.
Anticipatory service is an art and a true gift. Part of what makes it strikingly beautiful for those who enjoy it is that it is personal, meaningful, and not at all haphazard. It shows an in-depth understanding of the individual being served.
Anticipatory service is not meant to serve the servant, nor their experiments in understanding their Master. It exists as a representation of understanding and appreciation of a Master and their desires. Accordingly, it should be carefully planned and considered in advance.
Keep in mind how frequent attempts at anticipatory service may affect your partner. Some Masters reject anticipatory service entirely because of the sheer number of times it has been unsuccessfully performed for them. You might imagine how unpleasant it is for a Master to, on repeated occasions, have to reject an incorrect or inopportune attempt at service by their servant.
Most people don’t enjoy telling a barista that they got their coffee order wrong. How do you think a Master feels when they must repeatedly tell someone they know much more intimately that they have failed to serve them? It’s heartbreaking—not a fun moment for either side of the slash.
While some Masters reject anticipatory service entirely, for this reason, others simply don’t enjoy it because they dislike the implied momentary loss of governance. They prefer the control of giving all orders and having them fulfilled, on command. In service, these Masters tend to favor immediate obedience over supposition. They dislike the lack of control inherent in moments the servant is preparing to meet a likely need—they would prefer to voice their needs explicitly and have them met only then—making anticipatory service undesirable to them.
Assessing the Value of Anticipatory Service In Your Relationship
There are such profound and varied opinions on the value of, and desire for, anticipatory service in D/s and M/s dynamics. The only way to assess whether you should try to include it in yours is to communicate with your partner. Each Dominant or Master may have their preference in this regard, and every individual’s choice is entirely valid.
Therefore, if you desire to make anticipatory service a part of your dynamic, you should communicate to ensure the intention is mutual and that engaging in that behavior would be consensual. After all, you wouldn’t want to fail before you even tried! Making sure both of you are on board with the inclusion of anticipatory service is a great first step toward successfully engaging in it.
Another consideration that will boost your probability of success is including your Master in the decision about which area of their life will be the focus of your anticipatory service. There should be just one, at first. This is because the more concentrated you are in one particular area of their life, the better you will be at recognizing patterns of expectation, need, and desire for that type of service. These patterns will clue you into the familiar environment inducing the need for that service, thus giving you critical information about when and where that service is most appropriate, and, in what way, and for what reason, the service is to be prepared.
Including your Master in the decision of which part of their life is open to anticipatory service makes for a more controlled environment. They are effectively signing off, in advance, on the bounds of your anticipatory service. It endows your anticipatory service with a lower risk of failure. It also will ensure you do not step on their toes if a particular sector of their life is off-limits.
For instance, we don’t tolerate excessive noise in our living space; however, I would never shut off or otherwise engage my partner’s alarm clock (without permission) if it were ringing. This is because I know that while preventing noise is generally a service in our home, his alarms are vital to his day and are not to be trifled with. Knowing this, I can turn my attention to more appropriate outlets for our mutual desire for anticipatory service, like, packing lunch when his workday is rushed, preparation for his hobbies, and mending his clothes when I find them in disrepair.
These activities are not off-limits. There is no alarm-touching involved! They are also not a part of the usual responsibilities he expects of me. While I am supposed to prepare meals and beverages, ordinarily, he goes out for lunch during work. Therefore, these outlets are prime real estate for anticipatory service.
Knowing that certain parts of his life are too important to fill with anticipatory service is hugely beneficial to me because it ensures I serve him more effectively and make his life more comfortable, instead of more complicated. Asking for his input about the types of anticipatory service which are acceptable to him has made me realize how important it is to choose the focus of service with great care for the best chances of success. This is why I always recommend communicating about anticipatory service before engaging in it.
Anticipatory service is a difficult skill to perfect. It is impossible to avoid altogether, making errors in this endeavor. This is why, to enhance our service, we should instead draw our attention to the proper handling of errors when they occur and, decreasing the likelihood of errors occurring.
We should always strive to accept our errors with understanding. It is also important, when we err, to remind ourselves to be committed to moving forward efficiently and positively. While this is never the easiest feat, it avoids further inconveniencing our Masters and will make our subsequent steps in error resolution easier.
To reduce the probability of failed or inappropriate anticipatory service, we should gather information about the services needed. Additionally, it helps to speak with our Masters to establish consent and a suitable focus for our service. Communication will greatly reduce the frequency of making errors in anticipatory service.
The intention of this article is not to prescribe rigid expectations for how you should engage in service with your Dominant or Master. Your participation in service depends on you, your relationship, and the rules and specifications in your dynamic. This article is meant to offer suggestions of skills you can develop that may help you to engage in anticipatory service, if you and your Dominant or Master so choose.
Are you ready for part three of the Anticipatory Service series? Start reading My First Anticipatory Service and 3 Lessons It Taught Me right now!