Negging – How To Spot It In Dating And Get Away

Spot It In Dating And Get Away
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The world of dating is as hard as it is. Add to it the many new trends and terms that keep springing up now and again, and you can be left grasping at straws in making sense of what works and what doesn’t. Add negging to the equation and you end up dealing with lucid control and abuse even before you are in an exclusive relationship.

Let’s say you match with someone on a dating app and agree to meet up for a drink, and this guy says something like, ‘I’m waiting for you to finish your drink, so I can make a move on you.’ Or ‘You’re too nice to be on a dating app.’

The comment makes you comfortable and leaves you unsettled, but you are not quite sure how to react. You, my friend, are at the receiving end of negging. Negging is nothing but insults designed as compliments and you have to know how to spot it.

It is a twisted way of attacking someone’s self-confidence through backhanded comments to make them more receptive to one’s romantic advances. Needless to say, it is a messed up way of making a person reciprocate your advances. And you need to bolt as soon as you spot it. To help you do that, let’s decode what does negging mean, how to recognise and respond to it.

Related Reading: What Is New Relationship Anxiety? 8 Signs And 5 Ways To Deal With It

What Does Negging Mean? 

The Urban Dictionary describes negging as, “Low-grade insults meant to undermine the self-confidence of a woman so she might be more vulnerable to your advances.”

It is a classic form of emotional manipulation that is cloaked in such subtlety that you may not be able to spot it at first. You hear a man say, ‘Oh, you drink like a man.’ You let it slide, thinking it’s a classic case of a person saying something they shouldn’t out of nervousness.

However, negging isn’t a casual slip of the tongue or a mistake a person would regret later. It’s a shrewd, calculated move to throw you off the guard. 

It is vital to grasp what does negging means to be able to spot it. Since it escalates slowly, a lot of people cannot tell the negging vs teasing difference or identify it as the form of emotional abuse it is. Given that the person resorting to this behavior plays nice too, you can be left wondering if you’re being over-sensitive about their remarks. 

Trust your gut when it tells you something is amiss because this form of manipulation is designed to hit straight at your self-esteem.

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If you keep ignoring the signs of negging, it will change the way you view yourself. Negging can come from a friend, co-worker, boss, sibling, or parent too, but it is a more rampant trend in the world of dating and relationships. If you already know about breadcrumbing and catfishing then it’s high time you should know about negging.

Related Reading: Fishing Dating-The New Dating Trend

What is negging in a relationship?

Negging has been around for a long time but it wasn’t until recently that psychologists were able to put a label on this behavior pattern. In fact, even though the first descriptions of what is negging in a relationship can be traced back to a study done in 1965, the technique caught on among communities of pickup artists in the US in the early 2000s. It wasn’t until 2009 that this behavior pattern got a name. 

In relationships, negging takes different forms. Negging and dating is a combination used to their advantage by people who grapple with low self-esteem issues when they are convinced that they’ve landed a match that’s out of their league. So, they begin to neg right from the beginning of the relationship.

Alternatively, a person may develop feelings of jealousy and insecurity as the relationship progresses and start resorting to negging to prevent their partner from leaving. 

No matter why it happens, negging in a relationship is always about a man trying to undermine a woman to dent her confidence and manipulate her into sticking around.

That’s why you need to be able to spot this behavior pattern and know how to get away from a date who is negging. Or for that matter, even a significant other who negs. 

Related Reading: What Is Benching Dating? Signs And Ways To Avoid It

Negging vs teasing – what’s the difference?

What’s really the difference between negging vs teasing? Can you make it out? Yes, you can. When a friend, a romantic partner or a co-worker teases you, or pulls your leg there is a good-natured ring to it. There is no inner motive to debase you play with your self-worth.

Negging is usually veiled as a joke or compliment but the way the sentence is finished it inevitably leaves you confused about what the person actually meant.

Example of teasing: If you hadn’t given me a surprise birthday gift, I would have dragged you out of your house at midnight and asked for one.”

Example of negging: “If you hadn’t given me a surprise birthday gift, I would have gone to all your exs and told them to return whatever surprise gifts you gave them.”

If we are looking at negging vs teasing it’s very clear in these examples that the first one, in a good natured way, states that your relationship is so close that you would expect a surprise gift and you can threaten to land up at their place if they forget about it.

The second statement, unnecessarily brings in the exs and makes the whole thing a bit uncomfortable and unsettling. In a very subtle way it tries to bring the context of how many exs you had and if you gave them surprise gifts too. In other words the whole thing is horrible.

Related Reading: I’m emotionally drained because my wife uses our private arguments to criticise me in public

How Do You Recognize Negging?

Negging is a bizarre phenomenon. The whole idea is to undermine a woman’s confidence using backhanded comments or snide remarks, leaving her puzzled, and thus, gaining control of the interaction.

You might be thinking why is he negging me? The man who negs is trying to get a woman to seek his approval. Given its twisted nature and subtle form, a lot of women wonder how do you recognise negging even when they’re already at the receiving end. The insults are so subtle that you cannot make out how to reply when someone insults you. Here are some patterns to look out for to recognise negging. 

1. Backhanded comments are a form of negging

The compliments they give are like double-edged swords, with inner meanings and harsh connotations that leaves you guessing about what they really meant. It’s a tried-and-tested method to get you on unsteady ground.

A person using negging as a tool of disarming you will use these backhanded comments in public or around others, compelling you to smile and play along. 

2. Constant comparisons 

Constant comparisons in negging
Constant comparisons are used in negging

How do you recognise negging? Pay attention to the person’s tendency to always compare you with others, and how you never come on top in any of these comparisons.

No matter what the context or who you’re being compared to, it is always done with an intent to let you know that you are lesser than the other person. In that sense, negging and gaslighting are quite similar. 

3. A neg will offer ‘constructive’ criticism 

A neg will leave no chance to remind you of your shortcomings, all in the guise of ‘constructive’ criticism. The fact is that there is nothing constructive about this criticism. They don’t want to help you.

The only intent here is to cause hurt. However, they sugarcoat their words in such a way that you can’t even retort.  Insults are always thrown at you in the garb of positive criticism and compliments.

4. One-upmanship is a constant in negging

When you mix negging and dating, one-upmanship becomes a constant in your life. So, you’ve got some great news and you can’t wait to share it with the person you’re dating, expecting them to cheer you on.

But a neg will always find a way to undermine your news with better news of their own. This constant one-upmanship can leave you grappling with feelings of inadequacy. This kind of negging is common among friends.

Related Reading: 12 Signs That You Are Dating A Stalker And Need To Breakup

5. Negging is always passed off as ‘just a joke’ 

When you do try to call them out on their constant tendency to pick on you, the neg in your life will hide behind the shield of a joke.

‘Why are you getting so worked up? It was just a joke.’ Or ‘Take it easy. I was only joking.’ These are the common refrains they use to make you feel like the uptight one. 

6. You end up feeling sorry

They discount and discredit how their behaviour is making you feel to such an extent that you end up feeling sorry about having reacted at all.

For standing up for yourself. Even though deep down you know you were right to hold your own. You want to reply to their insult but instead they behave so down and upset that you end up apologising to them.  

7. A neg plays the victim card 

plays the victim card
Spot a covert narcissist in a neg

When nothing else works and the neg feels that you are on to them, they’ll find means and ways to turn the whole situation on its head and assume the position of a victim. A neg can be a covert narcissist.

In such situations, it can seem impossible to decipher how do you respond to negging because no matter what the situation, you always end up becoming the instigator and they the victim. 

Related Reading: Exclusive Dating: It Isn’t Surely About A Committed Relationship

Examples Of Negging In Dating

Even with all these tell-tale signs in front of you, you can struggle with the ‘how do you recognize negging?’ question. That’s because the other person has mastered the art of making you question your conviction. These examples of negging in dating can give you a solid point of reference to fall back on: 

  1.  ‘Well, you look fabulous. I’m surprised you could pull that off with your body type.’ 
  2. ‘Have you done something different with your hair? Looks better when you leave them open. It takes some bulk off your face.’
  3. ‘You’re quitting smoking? Which attempt is it?’
  4. ‘It’s great that you want to learn Salsa. Time to give those two left feet a chance.’
  5. ‘This new perfume works. Makes your manly preference shine through.’
  6. ‘Isn’t that your fourth drink? Are you giving me a chance to take advantage of you?’
  7. ‘For a woman, you’re really good at driving.’
  8. ‘Oh, you made cookies! You should try my mum’s recipe. Hers just melt in the mouth.’
  9. ‘My sister loved the dress you were wearing the other day. Can you help me get it for her birthday? But she’ll need two sizes smaller.’ 
  10. ‘You got a bonus! Congratulations! By the way, isn’t that girl from your college now running her own company?’ 
  11. ‘I don’t mean to sound rude but that outfit is making your curves show.’
  12. ‘I’m surprised your presentation went so well. Did someone help you with it?’
  13. ‘You’re being considered for a promotion? Well, someone is keeping their boss happy.’
  14. ‘It was a joke. Loosen up a little.’
  15. ‘Was that guy checking you out? Maybe don’t show so much cleavage the next time.’

Related Reading: Gear Up, Girls, And Stop Yourself From Dating Bad Boys!

How Do You Respond To Negging?

Now, that you understand the behaviour patterns and exact phrases that qualify as negging, the next step is to figure out a way to counter it. But how do you respond to negging when the other person not just discredits your feelings of being slighted but also knows exactly how to turn it around and play the victim?

What do you do when someone disrespects you or insults you? You stand up for yourself and reply back. Here are a few techniques that may help. 

1. Recognise patterns of negging

Recognise it clearly and precisely
Recognise negging clearly and precisely

There is no way you can stand up to a negative behaviour unless you recognise it clearly and precisely. So, use the signs and examples we’ve just shared with you to ascertain whether you’re experiencing the unpleasant combination of negging and bad dating habits.

Once you’re certain that these little ‘casual remarks’ are not random, you’ll be better poised to do something about it. 

2. Don’t respond by being a neg too

A diamond-cuts-diamond approach may not be your best bet when dealing with such negative, unpleasant behaviour. No matter how snide the remark, how infuriating the insult, don’t stoop to the level of the neg in your life and start insulting them back.

You will keep getting sucked deeper into this toxic relationship dynamic. Besides, your significant other will view this as a provocation and try to get back at you in nastier ways. This is what most abusers do emotional or otherwise.

3. Express how you feel 

Yes, the fear of being discredited can build up a lot of apprehension about whether or not you should let your partner know how their behaviour makes you feel.

However, for the sake of your peace of mind, you must express your feelings about their behaviour openly. This could lead to further strifes and arguments but you have to hold your ground.

Related Reading: 5 Signs Of Emotional Abuse You Should Watch Out For Warns Therapist 

4. Pay attention to their reaction 

When you tell them, pay attention to how they react. If a person has been inadvertently hurting you, they will be truly apologetic about their behaviour.

They will do everything in their power to reassure you that such behaviour won’t be repeated. However, if it is conscious, well-thought-out negging, your pointing it out will only aggravate their behaviour. They will come back with additional retorts and negative remarks to make you feel horrible about saying what you said. 

5. Don’t let them off the hook 

feelings clear in negging
Make it very clear to them how you feel about it

Even if the person offers sincere, a heartfelt apology, don’t let them off the hook by saying something like ‘It’s all right’ or ‘Don’t worry about it’ or ‘Let’s just forget it and move on’.

By doing so, you’re essentially giving them a license to continue with this manipulative behavior. Letting the person know that you accept their apology and hope such behavior won’t be repeated is the appropriate response. 

Related Reading: 20 Questions To Ask A Guy You Are Dating

6. Demand change in negging tendencies

Whether you want to know how to get away from a date who is negging or how to handle a more serious relationship with a neg, putting your foot down and demanding a change in their behaviour is your best recourse.

If you’re just dating, let them know that there won’t be the next date until you’re sure that their behaviour stands corrected. If you’re in a relationship, tell your partner that either they get their act together or you’ll have to reassess your decision of being with them. 

7. Decide whether you want to stay 

No matter how much the neg has been manipulating you, remember that you always have the power to choose what you want in your life. If despite you expressing reservations about their tendencies and asking for a change, the negging continues, do not hesitate to pull the plug. You deserve better. 

The bottom line is no matter your circumstances, you don’t have to put up with behavior that takes a toll on your peace of mind. Certainly not in a romantic relationship where your partner is supposed to love, cherish, and support you. Not bring you down with manipulation and mind games.


1. What are backhanded comments?

A backhanded comment is a comment meant to be a compliment but it is laced with an insult that will leave you unsettled. Example: “I never knew with a body like that you could carry off an LBD.”

2. Is negging flirting?

Negging is not flirting. It’s a typical kind of controlling behaviour that is intended to attack a partner’s self-esteem.

3. How do you respond to backhanded insults?

In the way you reply when someone insults you, you do the same with negging. When you know an insult is disguised as a compliment, just tell them on their face you did not like what they said and they better not repeat it.

4. How do you tell if a guy is negging you?

You will know a guy is negging you when his compliments will be laced with insults. He will always compare, criticize and compete with you and when you tell them on their face their behaviour is unacceptable they would play the victim card.

5. What is the best way to shut down negging?

The best way to handle negging is by understanding the pattern. You need to tell them how you feel about their behaviour and they need to change it if they want to be with you. Do not respond to negging with negging, it will not take you anywhere.

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