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Article ID: 4564
Age Group: Adult
Posted: June 10th. 2002
You Probably Already Know This, But
People don't always know what it is that they want. Or if they do, they don't always know how to ask for what they want. Inquire of any Pagan teacher or long-time practitioner and he/she will almost certainly have a few lurid tales to tell about the "I want to be a Witch' emails that he/she has received over the years. If a new seeker happens to catch such an elder on a good day, he or she may get a simple- albeit brief- bit of advice on books or web sites or other venues for beginning research. Catch 'em on a bad day though and he/she will get 'The Lecture'. You know the one. It usually begins with the phrase "When I started out (insert number of decades ago that was here), no one..." and goes on from there. Perhaps the new seeker upon entering a Pagan message board or chat room would be well advised to make his/her first post something like "So, who in here is in a good mood today?" just to be safe. Now dancing around a subject is an irritating little jig that we all do from time to time. Why we do it is sometimes clear to us and sometimes it's not. What is so very difficult about asking for what we want? A lot of things.
For The Seeker: What you really want right now may be totally unrealistic.
What a new seeker may really want to happen when he/she ventures into a Pagan venue is for everyone there to instantly recognize and embrace such an obviously magical new talent in their midst. Some new seekers actually come in and announce themselves as one possessing such wondrous and 'special' powers that he or she will understand if you are temporarily awestruck by such a mage and so can't respond right away. The lucky ones are those who just happened to choose a place where everyone there does take a couple of deep breathes before responding. There are very few lucky ones. Reality wears a very heavy boot as many a new 'self-proclaimed mage' has discovered. So why do some people put on such airs anyway?
Well, no one likes to admit that they don't know diddle about something that they'd like to be known for. In other words, if being a full-fledged and powerful Witch or Druid or whatever is somebody's dream, it is hard to admit to those who already may be just that very thing that you don't know squat about the subject. So you try to bluff your way in. Word to the wannabee wise: Don't try to bluff a Witch. For the sake of your own self-esteem, just don't. Instead, ask for what you really need: advice and guidance on how to attain your dream. Admit that you know little about the subject but emphasize that you are willing to learn. Ask specific questions about specific topics. Come back in a week and report on your progress. Then you are in a position to ask for more information. Then you are truthfully asking for what you really want, but in a way that is more likely to actually help you to achieve it. Respect/recognition comes to you when you do something worthy of it. Want it bad? Then work towards it hard.
For The Teacher: What you really want right now may be totally unrealistic.
Wouldn't it be nice if every new seeker that you encounter actually had taken that advice noted above? Wouldn't that put some of the joy back into the teaching/guiding process for you? To have an eager, yet sensible initiate who is dedicated to hard work and study show up on your doorstep would indeed be a dream come true. But because you so often see the other kind, you've become a little jaded. And you are prone to tar every 'newbie' with the same brush thereafter. Well, these are beginners and few of them will come to you with a degree in history or theology in hand. One way to tell the difference between the two is to ask him/her the simple question: WHY? Not 'why are you asking me these questions' or 'why the h*** don't you read a book', but "Why are you interested in Witchcraft or Paganism or even magic(k)?" If the seeker can tell you why he/she wants what he/she says he/she wants, this will tell you a lot about whether you want to offer further guidance or simply start putting on your other boot now.
Knowing what we really want and being honest about what we really want is the key. If what you as a teacher wants is an eager and dedicated initiate, then tell anyone applying for that position just that. Tell him/her that you will work your buns off if he/she will. Otherwise, have a nice day.
For The Seeker: Everyone wants to receive praise and avoid criticism.
You want to be liked and admired and seen as someone special? So does everyone else. It is the number one motivating factor after all of the basic human needs are satisfied. Well, you are special. You have a talent or a skill or a personality trait that is unique and special to you. And so does everyone else. Instead of trying to get other people to see just how special that you are, try expressing what you find special in other people. People like people who like them. If a certain teacher or author strikes you as being particularly astute or kind or patient or brutally honest (whatever it is that you admire in another person), then tell him/her so. You will find then that this person will be more inclined to answer your questions. After all, you have already demonstrated that you have such remarkably good powers of perception!
For The Teacher: Everyone wants to receive praise and avoid criticism.
That heavy boot is not always the best way to change another person's point of view. In fact, it seldom works for the long term. No one likes to be told that they are wrong even if they are indeed wrong. Let's repeat that: No one likes to be told that they are wrong even if they are indeed wrong. People become defensive when they or their position is attacked outright. The self-defense mechanism of the ego automatically kicks in. From that point on, anything that you say will be rejected as a further attack.
People are emotional critters. It isn't logical that people would hold on to an opinion or a viewpoint that has been proven by facts and figures and documentation (and by you!) to be incorrect. But they will in order to save face and protect their own sense of self-worth. There is a way around this and it is so simple that it almost never occurs to folks to use it. By simply putting the phrase, "You probably already know this, but..." before you go on to make your 'correction', you allow the other person to agree with you without having to admit that they were in error to begin with.
Now in reality, they probably didn't know that (whatever it is) and furthermore you know that they didn't know that and quite honestly, they know that they didn't know that. Doesn't matter. Their ego has not taken a direct hit and so they are open to the correction which you and they have 'already' agreed to. They may even feel safe enough to admit that 'no, they didn't really know this but thanks for the info'. This only really works if the person can see that you do have the facts in your possession even though, oddly enough, that is not enough if you just try to force feed them with those same facts. People are quirky that way. Might as well work with that if you really want to see some changes. Of course, some people just like to fight and argue even more than they want to see changes actually happen and as such wouldn't be open to any other sort of approach anyway. And some people really are simply jerks.
School's out. Vacation is in. Summertime generally brings with it an influx of new seekers to the Pagan message boards, chat rooms and physical world events. Knowing what it is that you- as either the seeker or as the teacher- really wants/expects from such a relationship and being upfront about that from the very beginning can do much to make these next few months a challenging and yet rewarding experience for everyone.
But then again, you probably already knew that...
Co-Founder - The Witches' Voice
Monday, June 10th., 2002
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