Empowering Spreads for Yes/No Questions

Sooner or later, every reader has to figure out a good way of answering yes/no questions. Many questions clients ask are asked in this format, and many readers are uncomfortable with such definite predictions for the future. The future is not predetermined, and the client should be made aware that they have free will and the responsibility to exercise it. Not only that, the question is often one that the client themselves should be answering – such as this one, which is actually quite common: “Will I leave my husband?”. Finally, a simple yes/no answer gives them much less information than could otherwise be the case with a well-designed spread.

One thing to keep in mind with this type of question, is that the client may not really have meant to ask it exactly that way. Particularly on e-mail reading networks, we receive a lot of poorly worded questions, especially from clients in other parts of the world whose first language is not English. What the client may really be thinking is “Should I leave my husband?” or even “Will things get bad enough that I feel I have to leave my husband?” For some questions, such as “Will we move to Chicago?” there may be factors you don’t know about that truly take the decision out of the client’s hands – for example, waiting to hear whether they will be offered a job, or a decision on a mortgage application. In these cases, a lecture about free will may not be appropriate. E-mail clients are notorious for not telling us these basic facts, so it is good to be aware that the situation may not be exactly as it appears.

Here are some simple spreads designed to answer this type of question and still empower the client to make their own decisions and bring about the future they desire – or find out why a decision is being made that affects them. More cards can be easily added to these spreads to gain additional insight into the situation.

Basic 1-Card Yes/No Spread

Upright card: Yes, if/as long as you follow through with what is shown in this card
Reversed card: No, unless you can deal with the issue raised by the card

This does give a tendency toward yes or no (almost unavoidable with one card), but also lets them know that if yes, they still have a responsibility to follow through and if no, they can change the outcome if they overcome the obstacle.

Traditional 3-Card Yes/No Spread

This is the spread most often seen in books, and it is a fairly deterministic spread that is mainly included here for completeness and comparison to the spreads below. Although I don’t advocate using it this strictly, I do think that the overall number of reversed cards does indicate a tendency toward yes or no that can be read along with the actual meanings of the cards:

All cards reversed: Definitely No
2 cards reversed: Probably No
2 cards upright: Probably Yes
All cards upright: Definitely Yes

Empowering 3-Card Yes/No Spread

Example question: “Will I be able to move to Chicago as I planned?” or “Will I marry John?”

Card 1: Factors in favor of the desired outcome
Card 2: Factors working against the desired outcome
Card 3: What is the most important factor that will help the client make this decision *or* if it is not their decision: What will be the deciding factor on which the decision is based

This spread does not give them a strict outcome, but it does provide lots of information the client can use to understand what is going on and why the end result is what it is. The reader can also look at the overall number of reversals and positive/negative cards to get a sense of how favorable or likely the situation is. Pay special attention to reversed cards in the reading, since these indicate areas where the client has the opportunity to improve the situation – where there is a blockage or obstacle of some kind that can be resolved for the better. Finally, if timing is an issue the reader wishes to deal with, the three cards can also be looked at for clues as to how long it may be before the outcome is known or the decision is made.

Exercise #1. Use a spread similar to that shown above to do a reading on one of the two example questions above.


Here is another version of the spread that is useful for evaluating situations where the client is involved in a contest or trial of some kind or is being judged. For example, it can be used to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the client as a job candidate, or the strengths and weaknesses of a court case or dispute, or of a marriage or other relationship. Example question: “Will I win my lawsuit?” or “Will I get the job I am interviewing for on Monday?”

Card 1: Strengths
Card 2: Weaknesses
Card 3: What the client can do to improve his/her chances of obtaining the desired outcome

Exercise #2. Use this spread to do a reading on one of the two example questions above.

Free-Form 3- or 5-card Spread

Normally, I advocate clearly identifying specific meanings for each card in any spread ahead of time. However, with yes/no or strength/weakness spreads, you may sometimes find this to be a little limiting. After all, if there are many more strengths than weaknesses or vice versa, it may not be appropriate to pre-assign one spot to strengths and one spot to weaknesses. In this reading, you simply decide ahead of time that upright cards are strengths they can draw upon and factors in favor of their desired outcome, and that reversed cards are problem areas or issues they would need to resolve in order to obtain their desired outcome. If all the cards are reversed, that’s a big hint, but I would still read each one, and say, if you can overcome all of these obstacles there is still of chance of getting what you want. This approach gives you a much clearer sense of whether the situation is mostly in their favor or mostly against them.

Custom Spread

A better way to do the Free-Form Spread may be to custom-define the positions based on influences likely to be affecting their particular case, if you know a lot about it. Then the areas in which cards come up reversed or more negative cards appear will indicate the areas that the client needs to work on to obtain their goal. For example, the question “Will I get the job I just applied for?” could be made into the following 5-card spread:

Card 1: Client’s skills and abilities
Card 2: Client’s ability to present himself well during the job interview
Card 3: Competition
Card 4: Market forces
Card 5: Appropriate fit with the job

This presents five different factors that could affect whether or not the client gets the job, and is much more specific than the free-form approach above. Using this approach, the reader can choose any number of cards, depending on the number of significant factors may be at work. This is a good approach if you have a chance to consult with the client and determine what the situation is.

Exercise #3. Choose a yes/no question that you would like to know the answer to, or ask one of your friends or family to give you a yes/no question that they would like to have answered. Design a custom spread to explore the factors you think may affect the outcome (no more than 3-5 cards) using the method described above and do the reading.

Additional Cards

A number of additional cards can be added to any of these spreads to further explore the situation, such as:

– External influences on the situation
– Resources the client can draw upon
– How to overcome any obstacles or weaknesses identified by reversed cards
– Unknown, hidden, or unexpected factors
– Specific actions recommended to improve the client’s position

And of course, if you’re feeling brave :-), the most likely outcome if nothing is changed.

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