Battling Brunch: How Do You Respond To Negativity?

Battling Brunch: How Do You Respond To Negativity?

One of my favourite things to do on the weekend is to go out for brunch, especially with family members or friends. It often becomes the perfect time to connect with people. After my subitizing learning focus over a year ago now, brunch outings also offer new opportunities to add pictures to my growing subitizing presentation. 🙂

I go out for brunch with a few different people, but this blog post is about one of them.

I’m not sure that I would call this person a friend. For the number of times that I see her, you would think that she would be one, but I think that “acquaintance” is a better word to describe her. We could be friends, but for a true friendship to happen, she would need to be more positive. I’m not going to pretend that I’m always a positive person. Sometimes, we all need to vent.

  • Maybe we’ve had a bad day.
  • Maybe we’re frustrated by a decision or a situation.
  • Maybe we’re overwhelmed with things to do, and the time to do it.
  • Maybe we’re angry or upset by the actions of another individual.

I can’t help but think of Stuart Shanker‘s questions of, “Why?” and “Why now?,” and how these negative experiences often come with answers to these two important questions. Friends are the kind of people with which we can share these experiences. A good friend of mine often spoke about a “garage group,” and the need to have people with whom we can park all of our questions, concerns, and comments, and know that it’s safe to share so openly. After numerous brunches out with this acquaintance of mine, I’m wondering if I may be part of her “garage group.”

The problems here are two-fold here though.

  • She only seems to be negative.
  • She cannot see her own negativity.

She sees herself as positive, and she often views everyone else as the source of the problem. When I first started learning about Self-Reg, I kind of thought that these brunches were a way for me to apply what I learned through Foundations 1.

  • Could I be a stress detective?
  • Could I co-regulate her?
  • Could I help her find things that changed her outlook?
  • Could I learn how to better empathize with her?
  • Could I maybe lend her my calm?

I don’t want to give up on her, as I’m afraid that this will just increase her negativity and add to the problem. What impact might this have on her other interactions throughout the week? Do I need to just stress detect some more? But I’m struggling here. Week after week, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to help make things better … or even if I can. And I leave these brunches, drained by the negative comments and eager to find some positivity. Is this good for my own mental health? I want to surround myself with positive people, but I also don’t want to give up on someone, who may very well need a friend. What would you do? I feel as though the answer lies in Self-Reg, but these brunch meetings are testing my limits and making me wonder if I need a new favourite thing to do on the weekend.


Aviva Dunsiger has been the Portal Plus Moderator for over a year now and completed the Foundations 1 Certification Program. She has taught everything from Kindergarten to Grade 6 and enjoys blogging about her teaching and learning experiences. She blogs professionally on her blog, Living Avivaloca. Aviva is excited to contribute a monthly post on The MEHRIT Centre Blog.

By | 2019-04-02T12:04:14+00:00 April 9th, 2019|


  1. Melissa Raine April 9, 2019 at 10:19 pm - Reply

    Thanks for your honesty Aviva. Your post highlights for me that there can be a mismatch between your prosocial impulses and your energy levels, and that you recognize that a “restorative” activity is actually draining your battery even further. I think being in the company of someone who doesn’t feel safe enough to explore their stressors is common — it is all relative, and could be any one if us at a different time! If self-reg teaches us that relationships are our front-line response to threat, then I guess you are on the path to thinking about how your relationship is fitting with that model. I’m grateful to you for sharing a snapshot of where you are in the process!

    • Aviva Dunsiger April 9, 2019 at 10:39 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Melissa! Is there something that I could do to change this relationship? I don’t want to give it up, as I think that maybe we both need this connection at times, but it’s also draining. How do you handle negativity? Do I just need to reframe it more? You’re giving me more to think about.


  2. Amanda Tinnin April 10, 2019 at 10:44 pm - Reply

    Amanda Tinnin Disclaimer: I am PCI Certified Parent Coach®, the PCI Model is an Appreciative Inquiry (AI)-based coach which I think really goes well with Self-Reg and I am a Foundations student (Mindfulness Module just started). AI is basically helping people shift towards a positive bias (particularly in parenting), sometimes furthering and already strengths-based outlook and other times aiding a total shift from negative to positive. I love how Dr. Susan described the negative narrow pin-hole view of negative bias and the broader opening of possibilities of positivity. The focus in AI is small steps to focus on growing the positive, so I would say modeling the positive and asking appreciative questions focused on helping not only find the strengths for the other person, but naming them as well. When you enter into this intentional space of mutual growing of the positive – much like self-reg which initially has to start with intentional co-regulation from the side of the one who is more positive (thinking of the stressors hindering that self-regulatory capacity to get to the positive), then the shift becomes mutli-directional with not only the person you are hoping to provide an environment for a change process to stir within them – you can help them reflect and enhance awareness, but the response is up to them – but in time I have found the prosocial aspect of brunch time will no doubt provide a deeper social-emotional regulation. [This is how it works in families. You help one parent or maybe both to shift into the positive to see their strengths – which in many ways strengths are a reflection of activities that help with self-regulation – and through the parent (or teacher) shifting, the child also feels that and as we know positive bias is contagious. I just caution that you thoroughly prep for brunch time and watch your own stress threshold. This brunch is part of your self-care, so if you are vulnerable to a negativity dose that day I would say it’s okay to limit your time with said person]. If you are in Toronto, I’d love to have brunch with you this summer when we make our annual visit to my husband’s family in Scarborough! Brunch is a big part of our life in Doha. Make sure that you don’t let others get you to a place where it is about effortful control to get through something you love!

    • Aviva Dunsiger April 11, 2019 at 10:17 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Amanda! You have a lot in here, and I think that I’ll need to re-read your words many times to help the ideas sink in even more. What really stood out to me was being aware of my own “stress threshold.” Maybe knowing when a shorter brunch time is enough is good, as then maybe I’ll also see this experience in a more positive light. I actually live and work just outside of Toronto, but connecting with new people and “brunchers” is always nice!


  3. Melissa Raine May 8, 2019 at 8:24 pm - Reply

    Hi again Aviva, in answer to your above questions, I have no idea! I hope you’ve found some form of reframing that has made a positive difference.

    • Aviva Dunsiger May 10, 2019 at 11:05 pm - Reply

      Thanks Melissa! For a number of different reasons, I haven’t had brunch with this person lately. I have a brunch scheduled soon though. I wonder if a little time away might have made a difference.


  4. Tanya Trembath May 12, 2019 at 9:00 am - Reply

    Thank you for your work here. I too have been in “relationships “ that have been draining and exhausting because of negativity. For me, the biggest lesson I learned was about boundaries. I hear you that you don’t want to give up on this person and as teachers we sometimes think we can “fix” things with a different approach or more love etc. I think about the effort you have put into this relationship and the time you have spent processing it. Is the other person putting the same effort in? Is the other person giving up personal time to rehash brunch encounters? If the answer is yes, I think that perhaps it is a two way street that you can both meet on. If the answer is no, it’s ok to set boundaries for yourself. For time, for mental Well-being and for peace. It may be difficult to frame it as giving up on someone but perhaps you are giving to yourself first so that you can be positive and energized for others (including the brunch person) in your life. Boundaries are not only healthy, they are necessary. You wouldn’t keep inviting someone into your house week after week if they trashed your home and left you with more work to do, would you? I wish you well and look forward to hearing how you and your friends who brunch make out!

    • Aviva Dunsiger May 14, 2019 at 6:12 am - Reply

      Thanks Tanya for giving me more to think about. I definitely don’t vent as much at brunch, if anything. My nature though is not usually to vent like this, and definitely not in public. I’m wondering if there’s a way to set boundaries without giving up on her. I don’t know if I can completely walk away. Curious to know if others have ever tried a similar approach, and what happened.


  5. Tanya May 14, 2019 at 9:34 pm - Reply

    I’m sorry if you thought I was thinking you are venting or rehashing publicly. Not at all! Working with this person is clearly important to you and I acknowledge the time and effort you are putting into this circumstance.

    • Aviva Dunsiger May 14, 2019 at 10:41 pm - Reply

      Oh no! Not at all, Tanya. My apologies if this is what my reply, implied. I was just saying that she does seem to share problems in this more public realm, and this is something that I don’t do.


  6. Tanya May 15, 2019 at 7:48 am - Reply


    • Aviva Dunsiger May 15, 2019 at 8:08 am - Reply

      Glad that clarifies things, Tanya!


  7. Connie July 28, 2019 at 4:59 pm - Reply

    Aviva writes,

    “Thanks Tanya for giving me more to think about. I definitely don’t vent as much at brunch, if anything. My nature though is not usually to vent like this, and definitely not in public. I’m wondering if there’s a way to set boundaries without giving up on her. I don’t know if I can completely walk away. Curious to know if others have ever tried a similar approach, and what happened.”

    I have walked away from friends, because of similar negativity, before starting and after starting my Self Reg Journey. Even though we were “friends,” I would notice a slight here or a slight there. Like you, I would just soak it in, re-framing it as a bad day or feeling frustrated/overwhelmed. However, I would then just park or dump any resentment I felt or frustrations I had with what happened or our friendship on my partner or other friends.

    One day, I spoke up about how it felt to me and a friend flipped her lid. She stormed out of the restaurant. I was left having to explain to the server why we were leaving and walking into the parking lot, she did not want to be followed and definitely wanted to have the last word.

    We live nearby and occasionally bump into each other on the bus. I remember sometimes fearing what would I do if I saw her (we also have mutual friends) however I was firm about not connecting with her unless I was invited first. She always had a way of voicing her negativity while also occasionally injecting a backhanded comment about me. It just, for some reason, made sense to wait.

    It has been four years maybe? I still bump into her occasionally on the bus and we respectfully say hello, maybe a quick how are you? and move on or text each other a Happy Birthday if we remember however we are no longer friends and she has never apologized.

    It would be interesting to reflect again or even bump into her again now that I am on a Self Reg journey however I have also, because of Self Reg, begun understanding and healing from some of developmental trauma I endured as a child.

    Have you heard of Brene Brown? Not sure if I can insert a link however I recently checked out a podcast where she talks about Shame, Self Worth, Empathy, and Living a Courageous Life.

    • Aviva Dunsiger July 30, 2019 at 6:49 pm - Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Connie, and sharing your story! I’m sorry that this has been your experience. That must be really hard, and while there might be reasons why she acts in this way, I can imagine how this also makes you feel. It’s a challenge as there’s Self-Reg considerations for everyone here.

      I’ve heard a lot about Brene Brown’s book on leadership. I wasn’t aware of this podcast. I’ll need to go find and listen to it. Thanks for sharing!


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