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How to do Tarot readings for friends

Three card fan -- Tarot of the MastersI don’t generally do readings for close friends and family when there is a deep emotional content involved.  (There are exceptions, of course.)  This is for a variety of reasons which I will explain in a moment.  However, I do realize that when people are first learning to do readings, friends and family are probably the only people available to practice on.  Also, if you do not intend to make Tarot reading a career, they may be the only people you ever will do readings for.  In that case, the following points may be considered things to watch out for, and I’ll talk about ways to deal with them.

First, there is the problem of being too close to the subject.  (This is also the main reason why you are the hardest person for you to read for.)  When someone is close to your heart, it becomes hard to differentiate between your intuitive insights and your hopes and fears for that person.  While it’s true that time and practice will mitigate this problem, it is never easy.  (I have seen seasoned Tarot readers do a quick self-reading that’s 90% wishful thinking.)

Second, we tend to hesitate to give bad news and tough advice to a close friend or loved one.  For one thing, we usually don’t like to tell friends harsh truths that they don’t want to hear.  Also, we know that it is hard for people to separate the bad news from the messenger.  For example, would you tell a friend, “He broke up with you because you’re too selfish,” even if it’s the truth?

Finally, there is the issue of deep, dark secrets.  People will sometimes reveal intimate secrets to strangers (bartenders, strangers on a plane, etc.) because they know they won’t ever have to face that person again.  On the other hand, there are usually some secrets that we want to keep from friends and family.  Consequently, a reading for a friend can become awkward when secrets come up, or it can be derailed when that secret is denied and avoided.

So how do you deal with these issues if you do planto do readings for friends?

First, set your intentions prior to doing the reading.  Think of it as sending a message to the Universe about what kind of reading you want to have.  Do you want the reading to bring up only the kinds of issues that both you and the other person are prepared to deal with in this context?  You can say this as a prayer or an affirmation, or you can visualize it.

To deal with your hopes and fears getting in the way, train yourself to listen for your soft, intuitive voice.  You can practice this by doing readings that don’t have an emotional content.  (See the section “Trivial Pursuits” in my Tarot Article titled “Practice Reading Tarot”.)  It also helps to consider what your hopes and fears are before doing the reading.  Finally, try to forget who you’re doing the reading for.  That may be hard to do, so it will help to focus your attention on the cards and not on the person.

As for the issue of giving bad news and tough advice, try warning the other person about this ahead of time.  Let them know that any bad news and harsh truths are coming from the cards and the Universe, and not from your heart.  Also assure them that they can take the reading’s advice or leave it as they will.

Finally, to deal with the possibility of uncomfortable secrets: start off by giving the other person permission to tell you when they don’t want to get into a touchy subject.

So there are some of the problems with doing readings for friends and family along with some ways to deal with them.  Do you have tips for overcoming any of these issues?  If so, please mention them in the comments section here; I would love to hear them.  Also, here is a fun poll to see how often people do readings for friends and family:

  1. Recently I gave a very awkward reading for an acquaintance.
    She requested a reading and I’m always happy to help, but it was clear that I’d uncovered something she didn’t want to discuss. She lied, as is her right – I’m not the police!
    It strayed from the issue she’d asked me about so maybe she thought it wouldn’t come up.
    You live and learn…

  2. Thank you for sharing this story. It illustrates this point:
    Give the other person permission to tell you when they don’t want to get into a touchy subject.
    PS: Great quote: “She lied, as is her right – I’m not the police!”

  3. Lady Darcel permalink

    Hello James. . . . and everyone else too! . . . I have actually read for a close sister-friend. I actually had NO PROBLEMS at all telling her the TRUTH about the “really bad” news in her reading. What I did was an Astrological Chart Reading with Tarot Cards included. I treated her like “A Client” rather than as a sister-friend. She gave me something in exchange for my work — a brand new Magic Bullet Blender Set! We didn’t do cash/money. This exchange helped me “Remain” in Professional Mode, and be Objective. I gave the “Confidentiality Guarantee” that any Professional should, and the Reading went well. You just have to practice some Healthy Aquarian Detachment, to Separate Yourself from The Other, and to ASK the Higher Divine Powers (Whatever your name is for Them or It) to Guide you and Help you. You have to practice at this just as James has said, but it CAN be done! Why be limited to helping people who are not close to you? To Be a TRUE READER is to be ABLE TO READ FOR ANYONE! Enjoy Your Journeys Everyone!

  4. AmaliaP permalink

    As you say, friends are often the only people available when you’re starting out and this is just my case at present. I’ve been dabbling with readings, mostly for myself, for two years but seriously studying the Tarot only for the past four months. During this time, I’ve done a few readings for friends that have turned out to be quite accurate, at least according to their feedback. It did help that I knew them but I tried not to let that influence me, and especially to word whatever advice I may have seen in the cards as something neutral and not coming from my personal opinion of what they “should” do or not.
    An interesting thing happened to me, though: I’ve been doing most of my readings from a distance, as I live far from most of my close friends. When I did do one reading for a local friend it turned out a mess, with most of the cards reversed and saying rather negative things about whether he should or not take a job that he was going to interview for the next day. The thing is, at the same time as we were doing this reading, he answered a call and started to talk to his girlfriend who was upset about something. After he left, I realized that I had allowed his own misgivings about the job and also his confusion about the girlfriend and her heartache to completely distract me.
    I had been reading for his confusion and for the outcome he thought he wanted: not to have to take the job. So I did another, one-card only reading about the job, and it was completely positive. The next day, my friend was offered the job and took it and is now quite happy that he did. He also subsequently broke up with the girlfriend who was too much of a psychological drain for him (and I had also thought that some of the confusing cards were about her, rather than the job) .
    For me the moral of the story was that I am too susceptible to the psychic energy of others when they are present, and until I can find a way to detach myself it will be best not to do in-person readings. And, of course, never allow the use of a cellphone during a reading!

    • Thank you for sharing this tale. Here’s a vital comment of yours regarding doing a reading:
      “…never allow the use of a cellphone during a reading!”
      A more general point is this: If the seeker (the person getting the reading) is unfocused (as was the case you described) then the reading will be unfocused as well. You might want to try a reading in person with someone who commits to being focused with their attention present. See how that turns out!

  5. It helped when you mentioned how tarot cards can reveal secrets. I can see how anyone doing this would want to be careful or comfortable sharing them. My son has been having weird nightmares lately, and I think a tarot reading could help him get to the bottom of it, even if it’s a secret he’s trying to keep.

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