Hey Debra, I recognize your dilemma as you can’t change another person and this is often frustrating. However, you can ask them to change. I would suggest instead of telling them how hurtful and unkind their actions are ask them to speak more kindly when you are around.
You might have to prepare yourself ahead of time by having some topics you are willing to talk about, and know the topics you are unwilling to talk about. If they get started on the “pot stirring” kindly tell them you aren’t willing to participate in this type of conversation, and walk off, if you can. Most people who do this, do it by habit. It is likely they’ve been surrounded by others who do this and have taken on this unfortunate way of communication.
You will actually be helping them by asking them to stop, as long standing habits are hard to break for most people. It is also a possibility that no one else has ever asked them to clean up the way they communicate.
Therefore, you might be the one to lead them down a road of better living and certainly better relationships.
Be sure to always be grateful to people you are going to engage at a level of change or healing. You either value your relationship with them, or you are forced to be in relationship with them through family or work commitments. Either way tell them how much you appreciate them and why. Make sure that they know you want to be able to communicate and/or work with them in a more positive way.
Wishing you all the best in this endeavor, Debra.