In part 2 of the Anticipatory Service series, “Making Mistakes in Anticipatory Service” I recommend finding one area of your dominant’s life to enhance with anticipatory service when just starting out with it in your dynamic. This rule of singular focus creates a smoother transition. In essence, anticipatory service is about being able to see patterns in the procedure, and it can be difficult to track patterns across a wide array of your Dominant’s vocational, recreational, and habitual tendencies. If you have just one aspect to focus on it, increases your ability to observe and retain their pattern of doing things in that area so you can help them through their day efficiently with anticipatory service.
Since service is important to my partner and me, we decided the rule of singular focus was a good way to start incorporating anticipatory service. His schedule is tight, so I needed to start quickly and efficiently. This account details my introduction to anticipatory service, and three lessons I learned from it.
My partner’s vocation is to advise on and facilitate ritual for those in need. It is a beloved calling about which he has always been very passionate. When we committed to each other, I knew it would be central to our life together.
In his practice, some various tools and materials need to be provided and laid out beforehand. These supplies must be made available to him at specific intervals in the procedure, so he ordinarily prefers another set of eyes and hands to assist him. While he is proficient enough to manage without assistance, having someone there makes the process easier and allows him to be fully present with those under his care.
Before we met, my partner was single for some time and wasn’t working with anyone who could fulfill his need for an assistant. He divulged this when he first introduced me to his work. I loved (and still love) watching him work because his connection with those he helps is beautiful, intimate, and divine.
Seeing my interest early on, he commenced to train me in his work. As we began to practice together, he told me he needed me to watch intently and stay focused—to know where he was in the progression—so that I could anticipate what he would need next. Essentially, he was asking me to take on an anticipatory service role in his practice. This would be my focus area.
We worked well together from the start. We were both passionate and devoted. I had a natural desire to serve him and, secondarily, those my Dominant was advising. I understood and accepted that during the procedure, the individuals’ needs came first because their safety and wellbeing were in his hands.
Since emotion can readily affect those in our care (who are often vulnerable and nervous already), I learned to be aware and in control of my thoughts and feelings when working. He said if I struggled with my demeanor and ever needed to decline from being a part of a ritual (to ensure a better experience for the individual), that I was to do so. Here, I learned my first lesson in anticipatory service:
1. The attitude you bring to your work is so important.
Attitude has the power to influence much in service. It has a profound effect on the value of your service and, especially in anticipatory service, your recovery from mistakes. Both are crucial to how you and others experience your service.
Determinations on the value of service are subjective, and therefore, easily influenced by the attitude of the person serving. Ever encounter waitstaff with a poor attitude? You probably weren’t inclined to tip them generously because their attitude tarnished your perception of the value you were getting.
Service value isn’t just based on whether orders are received correctly or meals make it to the table. Value, as a concept, is broader than that—encompassing the breadth of experience of the service. When someone says a restaurant has “good service,” for example, they usually mean the service was rendered quickly, efficiently, the staff was attentive, accessible, and—yes— friendly. If all these expectations are met, the service is judged to be of high value.
Two of those five qualifications for valuable service are controlled almost solely by the attitude of the person serving. Attentiveness and friendliness are assessed based on the demeanor of the servant. Therefore, the servant (ideally) can control and succeed in these aspects of their performance. After all, we control nothing, if not our internal states.
Value can also symbolize how seriously people take your service. The truth of it is, people aren’t likely to respect what you do if you don’t respect what you do. The way you present yourself and your passion for the world sets a precedent for how you expect to be received into it.
If you have a low level of commitment because you don’t expect people to value your work, your work will inevitably be of lower quality. You don’t take pride in it. No one in their right mind would truly put their heart into their work if they were expecting a heart-breaking outcome. You do not put your heart fully into something you expect to break it.
If you are expecting to be hurt by the failure of your service, you are not 100% committed to your service. Any anxiety harbored regarding the success of your work actively takes away from your willingness to invest everything into it. If you aren’t giving everything you are to your passion, how can you expect people to appreciate the magnitude of your commitment to it?
Naturally, this supposes the passion or work mentioned is service—that the person being served desires it. That said, the value of service comes from the servant. The value may be assessed by the person being served, but the value itself comes from the person serving.
In sports, an athlete’s performance may be allocated points by judges or referees. But the value of the performance comes from the athlete and what they put into their practice and presentation. Likewise, the value of your service may be assessed by those receiving it, but the value comes from you and your commitment.
If you don’t hold eagerness, devotion, and respect for what you do in your attitude, your work will, unfortunately, suffer for it. In the instance, a servant is in every way capable of the work, and subpar work often stems from a lack of personal investment. Turning out work of that caliber is an invitation for criticism and low esteem.
Being vulnerable enough to pour effort, devotion, and excitement into your work can be terrifying, but also thrilling. Such behavior nurtures excellence. No one attains greatness playing it safe. Dare to strive for excellence, and people will respect what you do.
Now, to delve more specifically into the contributions of attitude to anticipatory service. In “Making Errors in Anticipatory Service,” it was stated that in anticipatory service, errors have the potential to occur at an alarmingly high rate. Attitude is one of the most significant determinants of recovery from such errors. When mistakes happen, attitude is the difference between a slight inconvenience and a dreadful day.
Say your dominant usually likes iced coffee around midday, and you fetched one, in anticipation. Today, however, they have a sore throat. Instead, they want herbal tea.
Silently making the iced coffee disappear and an herbal tea re-appear (in that magical way service-oriented individuals do) with a smile and mere minor delay (due to the mistake) would be considered by most only a slight inconvenience to the dominant. Rolling your eyes with an exasperated sigh, dramatically pouring out the coffee, and muttering that nothing you do is appreciated is likely to spark conflict—and possibly an unfortunate rest of the day, especially if your dominant is already feeling under the weather.
In both cases, the beverage choice was corrected. The only difference was the attitude with which the task was executed. That difference is something we can control if we seek to exert control over it.
Attitude is everything. Don’t worry, every time I say that I curse myself for sounding like my mother. Unfortunately, though, it’s true. Attitude directly impacts the value and quality of our service and how it’s received. It affects how quickly we recover from blunders in anticipatory service, and how our renewed attempts, after, are accepted. If we make our attitude, our friend, it will do us amazing favors.
I began practicing with my partner close to the time we started our relationship. It was in our first spring together that I started actively assisting him in his work. I now have the better part of a decade’s worth of experience in it and am happy to say I’m still learning, both about the work itself, and its importance to him.
When I say I’m still learning, I don’t mean in the textbook sense—learning theory and practice separately and correctly. I mean, I’m still getting experience in the field—getting my hands (metaphorically) dirty and realizing that this work is unique on a case-by-case basis. The procedure may remain the same (with some variations) in a textbook sort of way, but individuals’ needs change person-to-person. This means I’m not going to be correct in my anticipatory service 100% of the time—which leads to the next lesson I learned.
2. Expect excellence, expect errors.
It sounds counterintuitive, but these phrases aren’t mutually exclusive. You should strive for and expect to achieve a level of excellence in your work. But you should also understand mistakes are inevitable. Doing any high-level work involves encountering and overcoming challenges. Errors are expected.
You must be okay with making mistakes, if only for what it means to your future. If you make mistakes now, you will learn from them now, and that will only help your future skill in service. Mistakes teach valuable lessons, leaving little indelible notes on our minds where our dominants words haven’t yet.
Submissives are meticulous, often hypercritical creatures. Frequently, our perception of our errors is far crueler master than any we may encounter. Our expectations of ourselves are exacting, held to high standards. That’s why one failure leaves a more profound impression than ten cautionary hints from our dominants. We see mistakes as big, scary things. They shock us into remembering for next time.
I open packages of supplies for my partner frequently during his practice. Sometimes, I must open the same type of package a dozen times over, because that’s what is required at specific points in the procedure. The packages, once opened, must be used immediately or discarded. It seems wasteful, but it’s necessary for safety.
I can’t count how many times I’ve been reminded to always check the progress of the procedure before opening the next anticipated supplies. But, there’s a difference between hearing it, over and over, and mistakenly opening supplies out of repetition. One is a friendly reminder; one is a devastating, guilty realization.
I hate wasting supplies. Doing so feels shameful and guilty. It takes all I have, to eat that mistake, swallow that feeling, and keep moving as efficiently as possible. It feels awful to say, but that jarring feeling is more memorable than my partner’s kind reminders.
I’m not recommending you go searching for mistakes to force you to remember important habits. I’m suggesting that when mistakes happen, you accept them, and instead of focusing on the horror, recognize that you’ll probably never make those mistakes again because you have new, flashing reminders that will stick with you. But, if they don’t stick with you, don’t feel too bad about that, either.
Remember, every time you make a mistake, recognize it, and learn, you are decreasing your likelihood of a repeat offense. Mistakes prepare you. This calls to mind the third lesson.
3. Preparation is paramount to success.
Preparation is the difference between haphazardly attempting supposedly needed service and providing successful anticipatory service. There are several ways to prepare, but the best starting option is observation. Observation is foundational for successful anticipatory service.
I used to watch my partner’s practice, taking notes. I segmented his complex procedures into clearly delineated steps. Then I considered the needs of each step. What was he looking for or reaching for? What was holding him up?
It was hard feeling useless in those early times when I was just watching to understand. But it was necessary to spend that time learning. It was preparation.
If your dominant has particular sequences they move through in your focus area, I recommend doing the same. In the beginning, ask if it’s okay just to observe how they proceed on their own. Observe the steps of their process, first. Then, note down every time they stop, get up, look for, or fetch something. Notice every disruption to their work—these are the inconveniences you will eliminate with your service.
After, you may advance to practicing. Practicing doesn’t mean you stop observing or collecting information. Mistakes are prime opportunities in practice to take notes (after you have recovered when your services are no longer needed).
Preparation is also possible immediately before a particular service will be expected of you. A friend of mine prepares by miming the physical motions of steps involved. She does this before her presence is required when nobody (but me!) is about. The result is an adorable dance representing to her the entire process of her work. Reviewing the steps physically and mentally, before the experience takes place, helps her mentally and physically prepare by recalling all necessary activities and accouterments.
Preparation helps eliminate mistakes before they occur. It keeps us in the right state of mind. It gives us confidence that we are qualified and rehearsed to do the best job possible while ensuring we have the information and accessories to support that outcome.
Anticipatory service was one of the most fulfilling aspects of training for my partner’s passion. I learned, and continue to learn, many valuable service skills working under him. Observing his work has attuned us to think in similar ways and notice similar things, improving our understanding of one another and intensifying our connection.
I recommend anticipatory service to anyone whose dynamic would consensually support it. It can bring people closer and deepen their appreciation of one another. If you’re curious about including anticipatory service in your dynamic, I hope you can use the lessons I learned getting started. They’ve been hugely beneficial to me. I hope they are equally contributive and meaningful for you!