Quite often, the exchange between the querant and the cards is underestimated in a tarot reading. Typically, when someone comes in for a reading, or even if you are reading for yourself, it is expected that any question can be posed and the Tarot, in it's infinite wisdom, will automatically know what you're asking and give you the answer you're wishing to see.
Posing the right question plays a big role in tarot reading, as it means that you will be halfway to getting the right answer. The Tarot has so much wisdom and learning to offer, but this can be wasted if you don't ask the right question. Before going to a reading or casting a spread for yourself, think about what you really need and what you are ready to know. You need to form a clear intent in your mind of the issue you are asking about, and what you want or need to know about it. The question you are asking should be important to you; I personally discourage readings for a third party, especially without their consent or knowledge of the reading. To me, that is almost like an invasion of privacy. Should you require a reading that has another person as the focus, you should frame your question so that you are still the main subject. Here are some examples:
What am I getting and what am I missing in this relationship?
How can I heal and harmonize my relationship with…?
What are my needs in this relationship and how are they being met?
What is the basis of our relationship, what connects us?
What is preventing me from finding love?
How can I change to create a long term happy love relationship/ friendship?
We all consult the cards about something ~ if we had nothing we were curious about, nothing to ask, there would be no point in having a reading! The best way to get the most out of your reading, and to have that reading give you some meaning, you should have one question in mind when you have your reading done or cast the cards for yourself. The best way to frame a question is to keep your options open, focus on yourself, stay neutral (which can be sooooo hard!) and be focused.
If you are seeking a general overview of your life, with nothing specific in mind, ask a general question. Some of the best readings I have done have been done with people who asked for nothing more then what the universe had in store for them, and were open to whatever came through. They literally say to themselves while shuffling “I am open to whatever messages the universe/Divine/God/ess has to tell me”.
On the other hand, if you are seeking answers for a specific situation, common sense dictates that you frame your question to your specific needs. The trick is in the wording of the question. Rather then being too vague and asking “Will I get that job?” or “When will I find someone?” (two of the most asked questions) you need to ask a question that is more specific and targeted to the issue you are consulting about ~ we all fall in love and get a job at some point in our lives! Below are some examples of well framed questions:
What do I need to know about . . . ?
What internal and external influences are affecting my goal to…?
What is the next step I need to take to achieve . . . ?
What is standing in the way of my . . . ?
How can I best overcome the obstacle of . . . ?
How can I be a better . . . ?
Which is the best choice between . . . ?
See how these questions are posed so as to give specific, helpful and guiding answers? A good reading starts with a good question. Here are a couple of tips that may help you:
Try to keep a middle ground between being too general and too specific, as both types of questions can be very limiting, e.g, asking if something very specific will happen in a specific amount of time can really limit the answers and solutions the tarot will give you, as will asking “Will I ever find anyone?” will be too broad for the tarot to answer concisely
Don't have pre-determined options when you are shuffling (then casting if you are reading for yourself); allow the cards the freedom to come up with creative solutions by phrasing your question open endedly
Be positive, make the question about a solution rather then the issue or problem if you are not in a good space
Focus ~ don't pose a “runaway” question, such as “When will I get this job and will I get good care for the kids and will I meet my soulmate at this job...” focus focus! Your question should only concern one topic. If you have several questions, by all means ask them, just not at once! There is nothing wrong with doing several little spreads over the course of a reading to get specific answers about a situation. If you don't focus, the cards aren't going to help you. Think of the tarot like a mirror ~ the cards will reflect your state of mind. If you are not focused in your question, the cards will not be focused in their answer
There are three basic ways of phrasing a question:
1. What do I need to know regarding...?
2. What do I need to embrace regarding...?
3. What do I need to do regarding...?
These three questions involve the three levels that you will be asking a question on and can address any issue: head (mind), heart (emotions) and hands (actions).
A reading using the "need to know" question will provide you with information about the situation from various angles. It will seldom give a direct advice. You should use this type of question when you feel that you are overlooking something important or when you need an outside perspective. Readings of this kind will widen your horizon and deepen your understanding of the situation.
A reading based on the "need to embrace" question will address your emotional responses to a problem. To embrace doesn´t only mean to accept something, but to let it into your heart, to be passionate about it, to be filled with spirit (enthusiasm). These readings will show you where your heart is in the matter, where you are limiting yourself by self-destructive or inept coping strategies and where you can gain a greater sense of magic and passion in your life. Readings of this kind tend to be very psychological or spiritual, but not very practical.
A reading based on the "need to do" question will come closest to the "yes/no" answer that most people want to receive. Still, it won´t explicitly tell you what to do. Rather, it will give you two or more strategies and their possible consequences. You still decide which way you go. While these readings touch on the "why´s", they don´t go too deeply into intellectual or psychological analysis, but tend to be mostly action-oriented.
If your question has a lot of sub-questions, something you may want to do is write down your main question, then list the sub-questions, for example, you may have a question about the future of your relationship. Here is an example of some sub-questions that would help you gain some clarity:
Past events that have led to the present state of the relationship
The present state of the relationship
The future state of the relationship
How your partner feels in the relationship
What they want from the relationship
What you want from the relationship
How you feel in the relationship
External circumstances affecting the relationship
What you need to do to make it better/keep it good
Each of these questions can be represented by a card in your reading; the answer being gleaned from the card that came up in the position you have allocated that question to. It is just like a normal tarot spread, the only difference is that you have tailored it to your specific questions needs.
The common thread in all of these questions is the notion of accepting responsibility for yourself and your actions. Abandon the “Should I”, Will I” or “Can I” type of phrasing as these questions show you are giving up responsibility for yourself and asking the cards to make a decision for you. The Tarot doesn't make decisions; it informs you, guides you, advises you, but it certainly doesn't tell you what to do. It is tempting to give up responsibility for ourselves and our choices, because then if the situation doesn't work out the way we wished we can blame an external factor and avoid looking within. Instead of asking “When will such and such happen?” or “How long will such and such take?” or the “Should I do this, will I do that?” type of questions, you will get good results from your reading if you try using phrases such as:
Can you give me insight into ...
What do I need to understand about ...
What is the meaning of ...
What is the lesson or purpose of ...
What are the circumstances underlying ...
How can I improve my chances of ...
How might I …
It may seem almost ridiculous to go into so much detail over a question; in reality, it should only take you a few minutes to formulate the question you are going to ask. And the benefits you reap from that small investment of time make the effort so worthwhile. Asking the right question will ensure you receive the guidance and knowledge you are seeking when you perform/receive a reading.