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I am determined to make this Christmas dinner tomorrow as non-toxic and as pleasant as possible. I will not let it become a negative event.

I know by now that going head-to-head with N is always a losing proposition, because he will not rest until he gets the better of me. He plays the sympathy card to the max--see how I'm handicapped; and how she doesn't satisfy my every whim?

There is no way to win. Feelings become so strong that rational thought processes are short-circuited, both for me and for whoever else is involved. He knows how to push all the buttons.

So, to stay calm, I will take a deep breath and engage the strategy below.

When hurt or angry, stay rational. The advice always given is to tell the person immediately that your feelings are hurt, and what you would prefer that they do or say. From experience, I can tell you that this approach is just a setup for an argument.

Then there's the "Clint Eastwood" method: take a deep breath, let it out, look him in the eye, and then....long pause..."What did you say?" Or, more elegantly, "Huh?"

It's a way of refusing to engage, refusing to take the bait.

Most toxic people feel they are not respected, and having to repeat what they said or describe their action, is embarrassing. Most likely, they will back down or at least stop whatever it was they were doing.

A combination of the two is sometimes necessary, for me: I tell him exactly which behavior (or words) I cannot tolerate, and then say I need to take a break. Walk away.

I refuse to become a participant in a toxic situation. Not playing that game any longer.

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