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9 Life-Saving Strategies from Robert Greene for Letting Go of Toxic People.



The word toxic is derived from the Latin word toxikon, which means arrow poison or to poison in a targeted manner.

And while most people give the appearance of sincerity and beneficence towards you, there are some relationships and friendships that, deep under the surface, are covertly toxic and destructive. Robert Greene speaks about such toxic people that most of us will encounter at some point in our life, and offers strategies for how to respond to these toxic people, in his book “The 33 Strategies of War”.

Unlike what the title may suggest, Greene’s book has little to do with war in the formal sense, but more about the daily subtle struggles and endless battles with toxic people and the consequences of our struggle to hold on instead of letting them go.

Greene gives ingenious insight into the psychology of manipulation, deception, and betrayal tactics used by these people, and practical advice on developing the ability to recognize and how to let go of these people.

Although some critics have quickly criticized and labeled his book as hedonistic tactics for retribution, the reality is, toxic relationships and toxic people can and will prevent you from reaching your true potential. And they will do it at any cost.

In “33 Strategies of War”, Greene mentions how in all relationships, regardless of the hierarchy and social status, any masks or facades that were originally presented to manipulate you will eventually be worn down and exposed, if they existed. And after their fairy tale storylines, masks, and facades are revealed, you can move forward and choose how you will allow the relationship to unfold.

In any relationship, the only control you have resides in your day-to-day choices, decisions, and interactions that take place with these people. So, if you find yourself stuck in a relationship or an encounter with a person who is disrespectful, belittling, or displays masked attempts to marginalize your self-worth, you can choose to let them go, choose to walk away, and choose to let yourself move forward.

Therefore, choose wisely.

Whether it’s toxic friends, toxic co-workers, toxic clients, or toxic family members purposefully causing unnecessary drama and turmoil in your life, here are some insights and perspectives taken from Greene’s book.

Strategy #1 Declare War on Your Enemies

See reality for what it is, and not what you wish it to be. People are always showing you who they are through their unspoken actions, deeds, and displays, not their words. Once you can see reality for what it truly is and what you wish it to be, you will begin to see the relationship or person in question more objectively and gain better insight on what decision to make.

Over time, developing a keen ability will help you quickly recognize when a toxic person concocts falsehoods of hurtful rumors and sordid gossip to cause undue pain, purposely marginalizes any achievements and success, and attempts to degrade you or others, using hurtful humor or name-calling. If no honest and sincere apology was given for their unkind behavior, this person is not a friend.

This is an enemy. With that said, this person’s toxic behavior is telling you far more about themselves, their insecurities, and their lack of happiness. If their time and energy are spent on pointless information about you, then when is this person able to focus on important things that truly matter to them?

This applies for any disruptive person in your life because residing deep within all of us is our intuition whispering truths unknown to us which is: you will have to let them go. And for some of us, this will be easy. For some of us, this will be hard. But for all of us, it will be sad.

Strategy #3 Amidst the Turmoil of Events, Do Not Lose Your Presence of Mind

Presence of mind is having self-control along with the ability to think and act calmly in any situational event that will bring discomfort and uncertainty and, if not learned and developed, it will surely bring you down spiraling rabbit holes of bad choices, reactive decisions, false self-doubts, and handfuls of second-guessing that will lead you into more entanglement with a toxic person.

Presence of mind requires stepping out of any emotional turmoil, no matter how warranted it may be, and not allowing any waves of emotions to have control over your thoughts and actions.

Having this sense of calm during times of major upheaval will bring better insight and judgment, which will allow you to respond instead of reacting, then lead you to the best appropriate decision with the right actions in any moment of chaos.

Strategy #5 Avoid the Snares of Group-Think

If anything deserves to be questioned nowadays, it’s the ideology of abiding by others’ prescribed beliefs. And, when doing this, only your integrity and your values will be reduced, and only for the benefit of others. However, when you have clear, concretely defined visions of your values, beliefs, and goals, the non-negotiables become discernable, and you will know whom to choose and whom to focus on.

Having clearly defined values will allow you to exist within chaos from a centered place, and help avert toxic people who sometimes leave us drained and disrespected. Often, we assign ourselves to certain roles in society not because we have an intrinsically sincere desire for the role, but because we were told to think and believe that “this is how it is done.”

As it stands to reason, thinking, particularly group-thinking, should always be questioned to determine who is benefiting and who is at a disadvantage. With that said, learn and understand the rules of group-think, then step outside of them and follow your own rules.

Strategy #10 Create a Threatening Presence

When dealing with toxic people, showing them, in unspoken nuanced ways, that you have powerful allies will often bring a level of social status into any given situation. This status is often accomplished by bringing genuine value to the right person with higher status without expecting anything in return.

While this may seem counter-intuitive to some people, contributing value, along with sincere intentions and gratitude, to a person or organization that does not need you will often get them to buy-in and believe in you. Over time, higher-level status friends can be made, but it must be done with good intentions with the right person and for the right reasons.

It simply requires out-working others’ mediocre work.

Strategy #11 Create Space for Time

There are times when we will be apprehensive, unsure, or indecisive about what action to take or what to say when facing a challenging person or situation. According to Greene, this is perfect timing, as well as an opportunity, to take a step back and do nothing in order to gain a new perspective of reality when facing a difficult situation.

This overlooked facet of doing nothing is a strategy of its own and, when used at the right time and in the right situation, it can make the difference between failure and success. When you choose not to respond is just as important as when you do so, and what you will get out of it will be much more different and profoundly more impactful.

Strategy #13 Know Your Enemy

In life, there will be certain people who will not have your best interest in mind. These are people who will sabotage you, undermine you, and give misleading, often unsolicited advice. With that said, when dealing with a toxic person, it’s not merely their mind you are battling against, but it’s also about you. Focusing entirely on the toxic person’s behavior is half the battle. The other half is yours.

You can only begin to understand others if you first start by understanding your own, sometimes subtle, sometimes unrecognized, but often unknown discord residing within.

This is done through introspection and self-awareness that will be uncomfortable, but will eventually allow you to say farewell to any lingering self-doubt, manufactured fears, and overanalyzing anxiety, and then begin the process of understanding others.

And in doing this, learning to understand and read people correctly, along with their subtle antithetical behaviors, will awaken and strengthen your intuition, which will enable you to see through any manipulation, triangulation, gas-lighting, and crazy-making of others with an effortlessly casual instinct.

Strategy #22 Know How to End Things: Exit Strategy

For most of us, we have experienced friendships or relationships that left us hardened by betrayal, but if my personal experience has been any indication, having experienced the receiving end of betrayal, manipulation, and lies, over time I have learned the art of discernment on which people to welcome into my life and which ones to politely decline and close the door on.

Learning how to end unhealthy relationships that don’t serve you or the other person involved, and ending it honestly in the right way and at the right time, has brought a wealth of happiness, gratitude, and peace into my life from creating a new space to fill with more meaningful relationships.

Surprising, for many of us in life, not having fulfilling and meaningful relationships is part of the process of having fulfilling and meaningful relationships. When you figure out what it is that you don’t want, you can figure out what you do want. Life is talented in teaching us lessons we assumed to know.

With that said, you will be joyfully surprised where life will take you once you allow yourself to let go of toxic people. So, in the end, was the experience with a toxic person worth it? You tell me.

Strategy # 25 Occupy the Moral High Ground

Utilize your integrity and values, without compromise, to serve a cause other than yourself, and do this in a genuine and sincere way. When others see that you are deeply involved in a cause that you care about, it may soften and defuse a mutually toxic relationship. The toxic person may garner respect for you, even if it is never spoken.

Often it is your sincere charitable actions of dedication that will determine how people come to view you.

Strategy # 30 Penetrate Their Minds: Communication

Today, most verbal communication is transitory and ephemeral in nature; therefore, nonverbal and non-direct communication remain important in daily interactions. Speaking with genuine and sincere passion, without any attachment to outcome, is what makes a great orator. This often overlooked aspect of covert communication is how great leaders influence others.

You can stumble and stutter over many words, but if you speak with passion and authenticity, you will convey a deep-seated sense of self-reliance in all interactions which, in turn, will influence and change others.

To have meaningful, healthy and embraceable relationships takes practice and proficiency to develop the keen ability to quickly identify when to let go of toxic people, toxic relationships, and toxic encounters.

And you first do this by seeking understanding of your inner intuition of why someone does not sit well with you, seeking understanding of what does feel right and, most important of all, seeking understanding of why you do what you do. In other words, live an examined life, and in doing so, you will let go of much unneeded drama in your life along with the unneeded must-have’s and must-be’s.

All relationships should enhance and add to your life, and not take away from it. Who we choose to allow into our life is always about quality over quantity again and again and again. And it all begins with our own choosing.


Joan Peperone is a wife, mother, and a family nurse practitioner with a writing purpose of sharing epistemic perspectives and approaches to help others find their passion in life by focusing on the importing things in the right way. You could contact her via her website, a shared collection of medical and nursing study notes.


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