If you grew up in an authoritarian family, you probably weren’t allowed to quietly refuse to do something you didn’t want to do. You may have learned to refuse by getting angry and over-reacting; or you may still be in the position of feeling like you must acquiesce to anyone else’s requests. Now it is difficult to say no graciously to something you know you don’t really want to do.

You may not want to go to a family reunion, drive an acquaintance to the airport, bake cookies for a bake sale, babysit, be on a committee, etc. You may be stuck in an internal struggle about how to handle the situation. Take a few minutes to examine some of your conflicting internal voices:

Listen to:

Your Inner Parent (Parent Ego State): What would your parents say if they were being critical? Perhaps, “Do it because I say so.” What would your parents say if they were being nurturing? What do they say when they want to protect and care for you? Perhaps “You should do it, it will make everyone like you.”

Your Adult (Adult Ego State): What would you say as a responsible adult? What are the facts that you can view objectively? What is actually likely to happen if I do say no?

Your Inner Child (Child Ego State): What would your child self give as a response when s/he is trying to do what would please someone else? “O.K., sure I will.” On the other hand, your child self might do what s/he really liked to do without considering anyone else. How would s/he respond? “I don’t want to.”

You can choose among these basic responses, when you understand where they come from. You may choose to obey the internal parent or do what the inner child wants, depending on your adult evaluation of the situation.

Remember the other person’s feelings are important and so are yours. A good test question as you form your response is “How would I feel if someone said this to me?” Are you presenting your own viewpoint with “I” messages (I feel, I wish, etc.) or with critical judgments (you should have, you hurt me, etc.)

Creating a positive experience for the other person, while recognizing and caring for your feelings, usually leads to a favorable and pleasurable outcome.

You can use this basic Transactional Analysis (TA) technique to address all kinds of problems. (For more information about Transactional Analysis, visit the International TA Association or The USA Transactional Analysis Association.