What defines toxic? Merriam-Webster defines it thus: extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful.

What does this mean to you? I suggest avoiding toxic people and situations whenever possible. Oftentimes you may not have identified toxic people who inhabit your world as you are just so accustomed to their vinegary attitude. Jack Canfield suggests making a list of the people in yor life, including family, social circles, volunteer organizations, and of course the people you work with.

Next to each person's name put a plus or minus sign. Each minus sign is a person you very likely should limit your time with. I encourage you to do this if you have never considered how some people in your life can have a negative impact on your day and your emotions.

Business and Work Relationships

If you work for someone else (as opposed to being self-employed) and can't avoid certain people in your work environment, do what you can to limit time with them. And this means phone time and email time. Certain people can rile you no matter what the form of interaction is. Do what you can to limit their access to you without harming your working relationship. This may take some real thought, but it will benefit both of you in the long run by ensuring that you limit opportunities to get cross-ways with each other. The best thing you can do it keep the interaction brief, professional, polite and unemotional. For instance, whenever I encounter somebody who I have identified as a whiner, sore loser, trouble maker (insert your description here) I treat them with professional courtesy, keep it brief and move on. This is not to say that you should cut off all communication as this can make a difficult working relationship even more difficult. What I am saying is keep it polite and professional. Don't get personal, don't get mad. Don't make the mistake of becoming part of the epidemic of bad manners that is beginning to appear in the work environment. Common sense tells us that we respond best to those who treat us well and respond poorly to those behave in intemperate or thoughtless fashions.

As a hiring manager, I make every effort to identify signs during the initial interview phase that a potential candidate may be negative or troublesome. If these behaviors show up in the interviews it will very likely become a huge problem after the person is hired.

Family and Friends

We all have people in our intimate circle - family or friends who are simply negative and chock full of terrible things to say about everything and everybody. It is up to you how much time you want to spend around them, but I suggest doing a gut check test. Does your stomach hurt when you anticipate spending time with them? Do you avoid phone calls and visits with them? This is a very personal thing and one that you will have to decide on your own. Consider setting boundariesand then enforcing them! For instance, if you have a friend that insists on calling you during the evening meal with your family full of tales of how awful her spouse is, it may be time to have a chat and set those boundaries. Don't allow anybody to guilt you into doing what feels wrong to you.

Positive Reinforcement

We become like those that we associate with. I suggest surrounding yourself with positive, confident, up-beat people who think of the world in the same terms that you do and who don't cause instant heartburn when you come into contact with them.

Surround yourself with successful people, meaning that their personal and business lives are working very well for them. Attend networking functions, coffee and breakfast networking meetings, join the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, Church or other religious institution. Do you volunteer in your community? This is a great way to meet wonderful people. Remember, you want to surround yourself with people who are upbeat, positive, in love with life and who will tell you the truth and provide positive criticism when it is asked for.

Psalm 101:7 (New International Version)

7 No one who practices deceit
will dwell in my house;
no one who speaks falsely
will stand in my presence

©2009 THJ & Associates, LLC

Author's Bio: 

Theodore Henderson, DTM - Distinguished Toastmaster -- The founder of THJ & Associates is a business coach who transforms the business lives of individuals who want to use biblical principles and Christian faith as a guide of success for all of the key areas of their life; spiritual, social, personal, family, and business. He is passionate about speech and communication and the application of biblical principals to business and personal success.

Theodore is a Distinguished Toastmaster who leverages his dynamic corporate background to help clients identify and target their niche, discover how to make bold, dramatic shifts in their entrepreneurial life by building a bridge from where they are today to where they want to go.