“Cheap Shots” #22: Tough Talk

I’ve written on the topic of tarot professionalism before (see Volume 3 – Issue 2 of The Cartomancer), but recent forum exchanges bring me back to the subject. What might be termed the “journeyman class” of tarot readers- those who have been reading for family and friends for some time – is strongly tempted to test the waters of public reading for pay. They may have honed the necessary knowledge and skills but lack confidence in their ability to think on their feet during complex exchanges with clients. Being “called out” for offering weak interpretations is enough of a deterrent to keep them on the sidelines, even though no reader is “on the money” with their observations 100% of the time and a willingness to be “wrong” is par for the course. Still, although few people are going to get rich reading the cards, there is a definite thrill to be found in breaking into the ranks of the professionally-recognized “expert class.”

Let’s get down to “brass tacks.” W.C. Fields has been quoted as saying “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit.” It’s probably fair to say that the majority of those who sit for a tarot reading have even less knowledge of what to expect from the session than the nominally experienced reader conducting it. I’m not advocating “blowing smoke” here, just saying that most clients, unless they have an intractable opinion about the proper scope of their inquiry, are suggestible to the reader’s creative inspiration when deciphering a spread. It’s possible – even desirable – to phrase one’s pronouncements on the cards in language that can’t be met with a flat “No, that’s not true” and a discomfiting stare.  After all, the goal of the caring professional should ideally be to empower sitters with the knowledge to make the most of the situation, not simply to give them an irrefutable “yes-or-no” verdict and walk away. Even if they’re after an unequivocal answer to “Does X love me?” – the kind of question I refuse to address since it gets into mind-reading territory involving the putative actions and reactions of an unknowing third party – a better way to tackle it is “What have I been doing to make X appreciate me (or not, as the case may be)?”

Developing the delicate touch to present clear testimony in a suitably open-ended way that gives the client options for grappling with the situation comes only with experience, and that won’t be acquired by wilting at the first hint of push-back. As I always say, a tarot reading should be interactive, a dialogue rather than a monologue, that brings the client’s feedback into the mix. I think of it as a “joint voyage of discovery.” By engaging with the client in an enthusiastic conversation about the cards, fear tends to go out the window as interesting highlights are brought into focus.  Even the most taciturn sitters can usually be motivated to participate when given the chance to talk about themselves. Knowing how to ask the right questions in just the right way to get the discourse flowing is another acquired knack. Coupled with the savvy to recognize when to shift gears nimbly – the intuitive “mid-course correction” – if a particular line of questioning proves unproductive, and the presence of mind to learn just how much prior exposure the sitter has had to tarot divination before getting too far out onto an imaginative limb, these largely social skills will go a long way to smooth out any bumps in the road to public acceptance as a professional reader. “Shrinking violets” may still be unable to muster the courage to take the first step, but they can always choose to hide behind the shield of internet anonymity (something I see  as a poor substitute for “live” reading).

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