The Finger in the Socket Test
The unusual name comes from a simple though not very sound analogy. One way to find out for sure, whether the electricity (power) is really on would be to stick your finger in the light socket hoping there is no power so you wont get a shock. It would be safer, instead if you could ask someone What kind of a shock will I get if I put my finger in the socket? In the same sense, you need a similar test to help when you think someone is bluffing or laying claim to power that they do not really have, telling you that you cannot do something or must do something and yet what they suggest just does not make sense. (As though their power is not really on.)
The test is simply to ask the question "If I do it (or refuse to do it), what is the actual penalty?
Imagine a light hearted example where a family member tells you, You cant go out this afternoon until you have washed the dog. You believe there is nothing unfair about your going out this afternoon and you intended to wash the dog tomorrow. This is where the finger-in-the-socket test comes in. If someone elses rules or conditions are not acceptable, then as an adult you have the right to question them. You explain I need to go out to get some timber for the fence. I will be gone for an hour. I can wash the dog tomorrow. If I do go out, what will happen?
Unless there really is a penalty, and the person can describe it to you, then you have good reason to believe that he or she has not sufficient power or authority to prevent you going.*
A rule that has no means of enforcement or no penalty for breaking it, is not really a rule, it is a guideline. But some people seem to enjoy turning guidelines into rules. The finger-in-the-socket test reduces their ability to manipulate or bluff you into giving your power away.
*Note: If the answer to your finger question reveals that there really is a penalty, for example withdrawal of conditional love, then you have discovered the power is on. You might then react by going out anyway (rebel) give in (fold) have an argument (fight) point out that conditional love is not worth having (fine by me) or get drunk (forget it).
On the other hand you might try moving into a more adult line of persuasion or even full negotiating mode.
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