The Finger in the Socket Test

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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 won’t 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 can’t 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 else’s 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.


Copyright John Nutting 1996 - - 2004  and      GROWING AWARENESS   All rights reserved World Wide  

Don't worry about these copyright notices at the foot of each page. It just means I want to hang on to legal ownership of what I write for use in future books.  Until that day, please feel free to copy and even adapt them for your own use and for friends as long as you acknowledge me as the author and owner of the copyright and you don't charge anyone for them. If you want to use them professionally or commercially (charge a fee for them) or for clients, each sheet you hand out must include full acknowledgment of copyright ownership as above and if  you are benefiting as a result, I would appreciate an appropriate sharing.


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