Success Hack: 3 Tips to Liberate Yourself from Toxic People

asian young Couple not talking after  fight  in living room

Success Hack: 3 Tips to Liberate Yourself from Toxic People

When I was a first-year history teacher in a Chicago high school, I quickly stopped going into the teachers’ lounge, which I dubbed the “Ain’t It Awful” Club.

Worse than the haze of cigarette smoke that constantly hung over the room was the cloud of emotional negativity:

“Can you believe what they want us to do now?”

“I got that Simmons kid again this year in math. He’s a holy terror.”

“There is no way you can teach these kids. They are totally out of control!”

... It was a constant stream of negative judgments, criticisms, blaming, and complaining.

I didn’t want to be around that kind of negativity. I knew it would make it so much harder for me to be the positive, life-changing teacher I wanted to be.

Fortunately, I soon discovered a group of dedicated teachers who hung out in the library and ate together in the teachers’ lunchroom. They were passionate about their jobs and believed they could overcome and handle anything that was thrown at them.

I started hanging out with them and implemented every new idea they shared with me – as well as a few more that I picked up from my weekend classes at the University of Chicago.

As a result, the students voted me Teacher of the Year in only my first year of teaching. That never would have happened if I had allowed myself to get sucked into the “Ain’t It Awful” Club!

Don’t let toxic people infect you with their negativity

All of us have to deal with at least a few toxic people in our lifetime.

You know the kind of people I’m talking about...

They’re the ones who are always complaining and blaming others for their circumstances. They judge others, spread negative gossip, and always talk about how bad it is.

They tell you your dreams are impossible and try to dissuade you from believing in and pursuing your goals. They’re constantly trying to bring you back down to their level.

A simple phone conversation or email exchange with them will bring tension, stress, and disorder to the rest of your day.

Sound familiar?

Maybe these toxic people are your coworkers, or your old group of friends from high school. Or maybe they’re your family members.

No matter who they are, they have the power to drain you of the energy, faith, motivation, and self-confidence you need to achieve your goals and create the life of your dreams.

IF you let them, that is.

Here are my three most valuable tips on how to liberate yourself from their negative influence.

Tip 1: Get clear on who the toxic people are – and how they’re holding you back

Make a list of everyone you spend time with on a regular basis— your family members, coworkers, neighbors, friends, people in your civic organization, fellow members of your religious group, and so on.

When you’ve completed your list, go back and put a minus sign (–) next to those people who are always negative, critical, and complaining, and a plus sign (+) next to those who are positive and nurturing.

As you make a decision about each person, you might find that a pattern will begin to form.

Maybe your entire workplace is filled with toxic personalities. Perhaps it’s your friends who nay-say everything you do. Or maybe it’s your family members who constantly put you down and undermine your self-esteem and self-confidence.

Once you identify them, you’ll begin to see how they’ve been influencing your outlook on your life and career – and holding you back from creating the life of your dreams.

Tip 2: Stop spending time with them

You’re better off spending time alone than spending time with people who will hold you back with their victim mentality and their mediocre standards.

I know, it might be easier said than done... especially if those toxic people are your co-workers or family members.

Maybe you don’t feel like you can remove them from your life right now. At the very least, I encourage you to severely decrease the amount of time you spend with them.

And remember, nothing is impossible – it’s always a choice.

If you work in a toxic environment, apply for a different job. Tough market? Upgrade your skills to be a more attractive job candidate.

If your family’s negativity is slowly poisoning you, have an honest talk with them and tell them how their negative words and actions affect you. If they don’t listen to you or honor how you feel, stop spending time with them. It really can be that simple.

You have the power – and the right – to remove people from your life if they constantly attack your sense of self worth and are preventing you from becoming the best possible person you can be.

Tip 3: Surround yourself with positive people

Here is the easiest way to insulate yourself from toxic people: fill your life with positive people instead.

Make a conscious effort to surround yourself with positive, nourishing, and uplifting people who believe in you, encourage you to go after your dreams, and applaud your victories.

Seek out successful people who have already accomplished amazing things in their life. This is one of the most powerful ways to bring more success and happiness into your life – by hanging out with people who inspire you and can give you the support and advice you need to achieve your own success.

Where do you find successful people?

Join a professional association. Attend your professional conferences. Join the Chamber of Commerce or your local country club.

If you’re a young person, join the Young Presidents’ Organization or the Young Entrepreneurs’ Organization.

Volunteer for leadership positions. Join civic groups like Kiwanis, Optimists International, and Rotary International.

Volunteer to serve with other leaders in your church, temple, or mosque. Attend lectures, symposia, courses, seminars, clinics, camps, and retreats taught by those who have already achieved what you want to achieve.

Your life will be so rich you won’t have any time to spend with toxic people!

And who knows? Maybe your success will inspire those negative people in your life to aim higher in their own lives as well.

A great place to find a tribe of supportive, encouraging people

One surefire way to meet more positive, inspiring, and motivated people is to attend a personal development event such as Breakthrough to Success – a five-day event I hold at a luxury oasis in the Arizona desert every August.

So many participants say they found their “tribe” at Breakthrough to Success – life-long friends who encourage, support, and motivate each other as they continue on the path to creating their ideal life.

Click here to learn more about this life-changing event:


[NOTE: If you register before May 29th at midnight PST, you’ll save $500!]

And if you’ve had to deal with toxic people in your life, please share your story in the comments!


You can, as long as you include this complete statement with it: Jack Canfield, America's #1 Success Coach, is founder of the billion-dollar book brand Chicken Soup for the Soul® and a leading authority on Peak Performance and Life Success. If you're ready to jump-start your life, make more money, and have more fun and joy in all that you do, get FREE success tips from Jack Canfield now at:

  • Mina Thompson

    The toxic people in my life are/were my sister and my niece. It is always negative, negative, negative. After talking with a retired doctor friend of mine for about 3 hours, he helped me realize just what Jack said about how to handle it. I realized that in a way, my sister had held me back my whole adult life by trying to constantly bring me down to her level. She really took a lot of energy from me by always talking baby talk and playing the victim.
    Once I realized this, I pulled away and started telling myself that I deserve success and prosperity in my life. It has been amazing how my life has changed for the better, and it just keeps on coming! 🙂 I pray for her everyday and send her love and light, but physically avoid her as much as possible (we live next door to each other.) I refuse to give my power away to anyone and do try to set the example for others. Like a wonderful counselor told me years ago: "some people NEVER 'get it.'"
    Peace Be.

    • Sheryl Simons

      Very good! Hugs!

  • Mrs.Spring

    Thank you so much Jack Canfield for those insights. Thanks to you I now understand why I've been dreading someone at my workplace: every other time I speak with him, I feel drained, discouraged and beaten up afterwards during several hours. Now I've got the tools to build a strategy in order to protect myself from him. I'm full of hopes. 🙂

    • liz4horses

      For some reason your comment reminded me of a Chair of the Department I had to work with. I was told when I started the job, a VERY awesome international science program to educate young people to learn to love math, science, and just learning.....that this man yelled a lot, and not to let him get me down. One day I had replaced batteries in a test unit designed for a whole classroom of students. I recycled the batteries into other science kits where it was not a test to need new batteries for best results for each student. The Chair came in ranting and said IF your car needs repairs do you just go buy a new one. The funny thing was, I had my brand new car parked outside............I get depressed over having to smog a car. I do not know about cars, I do not know about smog parts, I feel imprisoned the minute I get that notice "smog certificate required" SO, I had traded in my two year old car and gotten a new one............IT did NOT have to be smog tested! And then I said, yes, in fact I do, and by the way, ARE YOU YELLING AT ME? He never yelled at me again. So in fact, he KNEW it was illegal to yell at the employees, he just had gotten away with it all those years.

  • Christine Dsr

    Great advice ^^
    Keep it for your day

  • Horatio Civalero

    OK True.. not easy if that Toxic Person happens to Be Your Boss..Pays you even more than average on top of that makes it even harder to Break away..Little by Little I am my Pay may reflect or even suffer, however I am Am Somewhat Happier and need to Find Another Venture asap..

    • liz4horses

      One of my toxic persons was my boss. The Chair of the department, I realized at one point it was not IF he fired me, it was when, he fired everyone...........he yelled at everyone. And when he DID fire me........I told him "my doctor will be so happy, he has been pestering me to retire"...........he said, "you are not upset" I said NOPE. and walked out. My desk and computer were already purged, I had known for a few days that he was going to fire me..........he was mad because I had been subpoened into a hearing on the grants, and did not say I knew some people I did not know, it turned out he had people on the payroll that did not work there so they could get degrees for was that MY fault. I could have ranted, fought, gotten a lawyer, but I work with equine therapy and am truly happy with the animals and clients.

  • Roopa Sharma

    i always do it.........

  • C. Leal da Costa

    I have been like a victim of toxic people for many years. they interfere in all that I do, from Doctors´appointments to work on the internet! First they interfered with my job at Companies. Now they are surrounded by like-minded people who even I do not know personally and are undermining my decisions.There is envy, jealousy and so forth.I read your book "The Success Principles" and made Vision boards and gave to my Family.THnak you for your advices and God bless you.Please, publish as anonymous.

  • Vanetta White

    Thank you for that. For a long time I have been dealing with toxic people. I really never knew how damaging being with or even around toxic people can be until I had gotten sick. Thank God it wasn't too serious. That lesson alone taught me never to deal with toxic people.

  • Jack, this is a very good post.

    Toxic relationships are to be avoided at all cost.

    I know you suggest that if the toxic people we are dealing with are within the family, then we should sit down and try to 'tell them how their negative words and actions affect you', but I think as far as we know the principles of personal growth, this won't work.

    Why it won't work?

    Because if people throw negative words towards you, most of the time they don't even consider them to be negative.

    In other words, they are unaware of their positions.

    The other reason it won't work, is that by sitting and talking with them, we are simply perpetuating the same negative energy. And as far as the law of attraction is concerned, we are not doing ourselves any favour.

    In fact, a stronger person cannot help the weaker person when it comes to growth, unless the weaker person realizes the need for growth. Which means, the need to change. To change now.

    So I think the best way is in your point number two: stop spending time with toxic people. And at the same time, focus on adding more positive people in your life.

    Every time I've tried to sit down and talk with what I consider my toxic people, they misunderstood me.

    When I talked of growth, they talked of selfish agendas.

    When I talked of the law of attraction, they talked of stupid brainwashed nonsense.

    But when I decided to shut it, and mind my business away from their negative energy, I felt better almost instantly.

    Of course, it's more difficult if we are dealing with family members, but because our success depends on our well-being, and because our well-being depends on how positive our environment is, then be it family or work colleagues, we at some point have to decide.

    And the decision is only one: mind your business by not complaining or even explaining.

    I also agree with Jack that, 'You're better off spending time alone than spending time with people who will hold you back with their victim mentality and their mediocre standards.

    Lastly, I would like to share the fact that, according to one study, the super-rich people keep a special notebook about their relationships. That's how serious this whole thing is.

    Warning: Some people may read this and say, yeah right, that's just Jack saying it... but I'm strong, I can deal with toxic people...

    Well, that isn't possible.

    Gary Keller, the best-selling author of The One Thing, says, no one is strong enough to avoid the negative attitude of others. Because attitude is contagious, somewhere, somehow the wind will blow your way.

    Jack, keep the good work.

    I'm a big fan.

    jOsh lugEmbe

    • Sheryl Simons

      If we reject all the neg. People in our lives there will be no one left! But we can chose to spend most of our time with the pos+ ones!

      • I agree, Sherly.

        I agree that we should choose to spend more time with those who are positive about life. Positive about other people. Positive about things. Positive about themselves. And positive about the future.

        It's really difficult to spend time with toxic people and hope to somehow control how their words or actions affect us.

        And I think you'd agree 👍 that, more than anything, we must live our values . This is what we must radiate to others. Once they know that we don't live anything out of our values, then they'll either choose to change their words and actions or...

        It's a tough thing to deal with.

        Because to really deal with it, we must deal with ourselves.

      • liz4horses

        I agree. In my twenties I figured out that if I only stayed with my perfect friends, I was going to be pretty lonely so I started dealing. One of my sisters, God rest her late soul, was on time at work, a Captain of the Sheriff......but at home, she was ALWAYS late. SO, I just said, I am not comfortable being late, and will meet you places. We did and it worked for decades until she passed from cancer. A friend, was truly unreliable. She would say she was going to the beach, or a movie, or to the park with kids.......she might, or might not show up. I said, I love her, she is my we chatted. I met her places too, AND she agreed, if someone offered me to go somewhere, and she DID show up and I was not there, it was her own unreliable behavior that had made me choose to take something to do, rather than be at home fuming when she did not show up. I had one friend I bought a timer, and said, OK, bitch.........she got until the timer ran out of sand, then she had to go on to positives. It worked. She really had a day that often just needed venting, but I did not want to be her dumping ground for hours at a time.

    • liz4horses

      I think, as part of my long decades of mediation, and starting community and school mediation programs I have a great faith in talking. BUT you have to learn HOW to talk positively. AND you have to learn to listen, for a certain space to the exact opposition, NOT the whining, the real "juice" (as it is called in mediation). I worked for many years doing the five minute interviews to create a contract between a juvenile and the Judge for a special rehabilitation program for juveniles. I learned to say, What do you want to do with your life, what will you do to make that happen, and do you truly understand that this is the opportunity of a lifetime...........create your own contract, fulfill it, and in three to seven years, if you come back contract complete, no more arrests, your record will be GONE, not expunged, not dismissed, GONE. If you do NOT, you take your chances at trial, and that is that, and if you do not fulfill your have accepted a full guilty plea with FULL sentence already attached. We have had a spectacular success rate over decades............ in your own life, whether at work, or in your home, neighborhood or family........we have to deal.

      I find that your thought that we have to tell them how their negative words and actions affect me is not as important as ME telling ME to spend my time better. I have friends I know I love, can email, phone, but in person........NOPE, they waste too much of my time, and they want to go eat all the time. I do not want to go watch other people eat things I can not or choose not to eat...........I go to events and parties for short periods of time. I am happy to go and help someone paint their room, or clean the closet and take unwanted or unused things to the thrift store and for recycling at the dump. BUT, I do NOT want to sit around and watch other people eat.

      I confronted drinking, drugs, getting into debt by overspending with many of my friends and family. I realized most of that is NOT my business. It might have been uncomfortable for the moment, maybe they did not talk to me for awhile, one woman has now not talked to me for six months because I refuse to listen to her idea that if I just say I am not injured, I will recover from being hit by two drunks racing..........I am in physical therapy, and using the crutches, and braces the doctors gave me.......I do not take pain medications........what is the use of being alive if I am just asleep, or can not function properly? SHE is outraged and says if I want to say it takes an older person longer to heal, than just accept my own limitations. OK, whatever. The days truly appear to be gone when I got in accidents, or thrown from a horse, or got injured in gymnastics or other sports, and jumped back up with casts on and went on going...........I seem to be limping along this time...........

      My point is that people who once were great, including ourselves, can become toxic, but it is up to us to accept that toxic behavior, or not. One of my foster sister's was living in a park following a horrible divorce. Two of us went and got her, and brought her home and said, if YOU want to get your life back, we will help you, otherwise, we are leaving you in the park. It makes my heart happy to know she has her own place and job and is doing well once again. It hurt my heart to know she was living in that park, but until the divorce was over and she was willing to help herself, there was nothing I could have done.

      When I had cancer, she came and cleaned my house, and went with me shopping for food since I felt a little intimidated to drive and go to the stores alone while in treatment and radiation.

      Her helping me really made me feel AMAZING. One of my nieces, one I had only sent cards to, had to pass by my city on her way back and forth from her home to her beach house. She came for two days, cleaned out my whole room, painted it, put in a new rug, and bought me a fridge full of food I could eat with all that radiation and surgery. When she went through her divorce some years later, I was able to help her..............she felt overwhelmed by her divorce and the lawyers pounding on her. I asked her, what do you really want to say. She thought about it and wrote to her ex...........she said, I do not need any of MY things or MY money, I just want you to know how much you asked me to give up of MY life to help build yours, and now you leave me with nothing. He wrote back some blabby legalese message about his lawyer said he could get even more............she said, I think what really hurts is that I did not see what a con man and jerk he was, and that I have to accept my own responsibility for his having taken advantage of my life. She wrote back and told him she was taking the last agreement, and hoped one day God would forgive him. She went on back to the school she had quit so often when his job moved them somewhere else.........and just graduated!!! She also got into a fitness program and looks twenty years younger and HAPPY.

      My older son had cancer at age 16. It was terminal. Then the City of Hope accepted him into a research project and he was CURED. He had three relapses, but today he is 47 and cancer free for years. When he was sick, and then for a few years, his younger brother and I gave him everything. WE were training horses, bad expensive horses, and baby race was hard and dangerous. We ate top ramen, and tuna sandwiches, we gave him money to go out and buy concert tickets. One day, down the road, we said, this is not working. We had a family chat. We just said, we love you, we loved giving to you, but the gravy train has stopped, you make more money in ONE DAY than we make in a week, and your job is in suits, and air conditioned buildings. He said, well, if I am spoiled, you spoiled me, but OK. And that was that. One of my younger brothers had PTSD and four kids and a wife who got into drugs and drinking WITH him. I said, here is the deal, YOU are not going to ask Mom for money any more. I am going to pay up your utilities and rent, and YOU are going to pay me back, or YOU are choosing to stay away from the family, I feel you are just using Mom, and then I have to pay her bills, and am not happy about it. He and his wife chose to get in a family rehabilitation program for veterans and addicts. They were amazing, they raised four awesome adults and stayed married until his wife died from cancer a couple of years ago. He has continued to support his daughter who is in medical school, and to keep up the house and her dogs for her and as a contractor, helps seniors and disabled people who can not afford to get their homes fixed. That all came from talking, and loving, and not feeling I was stronger...............when our Dad died, two of us had cancer, and HE paid for the services, arranged them, and bought the headstone. We are all just happy that he and his family have recovered and are happy and successful.

  • drpolly

    What if I found out (after reading this post obviously) that the toxic person you mentioned is actually my mom, what should I do? Stop spending time with her? That's so unfair to her.

    • Sheryl Simons

      Sometimes , as in your case you might be an example of positivity. I heard a story of a young man who's mother was a complete alcoholic, but he treated her with love and respect, rather than abandoning her. But you must be strong to do this. Practice with a friend or coach:)

    • liz4horses

      MY Mom decided she was going to retire, and come live in the family estate. I did not want her there. I had two kids, was raising a nephew, and going to law school. I said, OK, but bring your rocking chair, and sit on the porch, and SHUT THE F)#@(*% up. I do NOT want you to interefere in my life. She rented out her house, got in the new car my sister gave her and spent months on a road trip she had never had time for with her visit old friends and family who LOVED seeing her. She came home to share amazing stories and start up her own counseling program part time from HER house. And if your Mom is someone you can not convince to go to extended family therapy or mediation is NOT unfair to her.......some people like to run all over others, and some let their own fears and worries drag everyone else down..........My Mom had a theory (she was a MSW licensed family deputy for the county, that many women suffer from severe post partum depression that is never properly diagnosed. They live their own lives in a horror of worry, and negativity........and YES it is completely draining to say, HEY I graduated, and have someone say..........some strange negative thing about people who graduate do not get jobs or whatever to bring you down. Lose weight, they ask if you have cancer, gain weight, they ask if you want a heart attack and tell you you are fat.........I try to spend as little time as possible with that type of person, but when it is your Mom, you might have to find things SHE loves and do them to keep her motivated positively.

  • Beckie

    Recently my toxic person is my husbandof 11 years, he's an alcoholic and started smoking again a couple of months ago after 4 years off them. He suffers from depression and anxiety and is completely involved in himself. I love him. But jeeez it drags me down.

    • liz4horses

      I did not like my older son drinking and of course do not like his smoking. BUT, I had a horrible car accident, got hit by drunks racing, and had to return to the family manse where he was living. We decided to sell the estate to help my niece and nephew pay off their law school loans........and moved into a smaller place. I decided, you know what, even if MY self destructive behavior is eating an extra bowl of granola with some yogert now and again, or training bad horses and racing off is no different than his. His business is his. I do not bail him out when he has issues from his drinking and our new landlord said no smoking in the house. SO, he only smokes outside, and it truly is NOT my business. One day he and I had a chat, and it was really eye opening to find out how sainted I thought I was, and he had his list of my faults and flaws as well. We BOTH get along a lot happier now, in spite of the economy and the reality that we are making about one tenth of our income before our companies folded. I had to return to horse training, he is doing handy work for dog rescues who find it hard to get anyone to work around all those dogs. Good thing I had my K-9 veteran therapy dogs, and high risk probation dogs and horses to build his tolerance to we laugh about that as well. My ex came home from Desert Storm with serious PTSD. One day we decided it was best if BOTH of him moved out because one of them did not like me..........I said to him, when I was injured and disabled, I thank you for being there for me, for teaching me to walk, talk, read, write, drive and get back out into my career..........but I did what my doctors and you told me to. You are not, and it is running me down. He agreed and went home to his Mom. Today he is fine, and has come and apologized..........I used to pray for him.......but knew I would never be truly safe feeling with him again after his midnight walks with loaded weapons around the house............he was asleep! I said, it is not about love, I do love you, and I thank you, but.............I need to be safe and I deserve to be happy. He agreed.

  • john boh

    to avoid negative average mediocres, who holds you back and bring down to their level, that means you have to avoid all singaporeans 97 % of them and civil servants in singapore who are robots to me who are programmed to hold others back. and to bring others down to their working class level.

  • liz4horses

    In my work, I have so many clients, I have to tell them, I am only here to work with those who want a hand, not a hand out, and not an ear to listen to you whine. We all have to whine once in awhile.......but.....I love what you said about to really deal with it we must deal with ourselves, and I think that if we listen to people whine too long, we take away their chance to deal with themselves. I went to a seminar at the LA Times Women Conference and the young woman was supposed to be a comedienne. She started with her real life, it was awful........but she said, she had learned,...........face it and learn from it and move along. She said something that really makes me laugh, no matter how rough it gets, and working with gang kids, and veterans and domestic violence survivors it can get rough! She God......can't you just write it on my forehead or something, I am not learning whatever it is I am supposed to be learning, I just feel like you are beating me up. She said a peace fell over her, and she realized she had a deep seated idea from childhood that God did bad things to us to make us learn something..............I agree with what she figured out that day.....that God gives us the power to turn our lemons into lemonade, or lemon tarts, or even cleaning solution that cleans ANYTHING but God does not give us lemons to teach us that He would rather give us lemons than oranges, or strawberries. Life just is. God helps us figure out how to get through, and gives us the strength, courage, and learning ability to get through and use it for good. I would never think that trying to commit suicide as a youth would be a good thing. So many of my friends were killed in Vietnam, it just was hard, those who came back were addicted to drugs, and ruined from who they had been, BUT..........I just wrote an article for a veteran's magazine, was ASKED to write it, and thought, I will write, Suicide from the Inside............and I did. I heard the young actor on the Oscars say he too had tried suicide as a teen, but was grateful to be alive and a success. That suicide is a terminal solution to a problem that probably is not with ourselves. I have built a career on mediation, resolution of problems, and when I walked out on the streets of Oakland and S. Central Los Angeles, and S. El Monte, a disabled person with a terminal disease, I relied on my research into a world at peace. Something both Einstein, and John Nash wrote great concept papers about. Dealing with the reality of what war had done to my friends, I have focused my life, on family, community and world peace programs. And met amazing people. Desmond Tutu, and Nelson Mandela BOTH came to events where I was a member. They gave me hope. Vincent Bugliosi wrote a book and made a documentary that said, instead of being mean and bitter, face reality and fix our country, no one could belittle him, every sentence was based on researched and documented reality.

  • Laura

    While I agree with everything in this post, I wonder what you would recommend when the toxic person is a spouse or parent? Those are pretty unavoidable. Suggestions?

  • Rose Connolly

    thx for the tips. had some neg. family members and just had to distance myself from them
    never felt better in my decision. also let go of old friend of 20 yrs and that was right decision too