1. Validate. “I understand how you might feel that way” is a powerful preface to defending yourself. Remember, validation/acknowledgement is NOT the same thing as agreement. Disengagement is the key here, especially for people who are toxic or historically unavailable to you in an emotional way.
2. Speak about your own feelings. Don't tell other people what they feel. When you tell someone why they did something, what they should feel, or what they are thinking, you invalidate them, increasing the likelihood that they lash out with defensiveness.
3. Set clear boundaries, but remember that those boundaries are for you, not for other people. It's up to you to enforce your boundaries by limiting or ending contact with people who mistreat you.
4. Practice rational optimism. Don't assume that people with a long history of bad behavior are going to start behaving in kind and loving ways. But don't put a negative spin on everything you hear. When you assume the best, you're less likely to lash out, and more likely to enjoy the holidays.
5. Don't be afraid to share your own feelings. If someone says or does something hurtful, don't lash out or call them names. Tell them in plain and simple language that they have said something hurtful. A great script to use is, " I felt __________ when you ________ so next time I need you to/could you ______________________________."