Almost all of us have been negged at some point in our lives, whether we know it or not.
The term “negging” was coined by Neil Strauss in his book “The Game,” an autobiographical account of his dating experiences that also serves as a guide for those wanting to know how to seduce women. Negging is when someone attempts to undermine someone else’s self-confidence by appearing flirtatious and lighthearted and at the same time delivering politely phrased insults. People do this to manipulate others, as their snide, backhanded way of “complimenting” causes people to feel rejected without having a direct insult to pin that feeling on.
The overall goal of negging is to make someone feel vulnerable so that they become easier prey for a predatory game-player who wishes to maintain the “upper hand.” Neggers will hone in on something that that they perceive as a trigger or insecurity for the other person. For example, they may make a negative comment about someone’s facial features, weight, shape, height, an item of clothing the person is wearing, hairstyle, or the way they talk and express themselves, but in a seemingly innocent and playful way—leading the other person wonder if their intent really was to inflict harm. This is particularly effective when the victim is caught off guard, as it puts the negger into prime position to pounce with their next carefully calculated move.
Once that person’s self-esteem is reduced, the idea is that they will then feel so unworthy that they will fight hard to gain the negger’s approval.
Simply put, it’s a sneaky way of tipping the scales in the favor of the person negging.
In the game of dating, negging is often used to secure higher odds that the other person will agree to a date, as they feel unworthy of the attention they are receiving from the negger.
Much of this behavior derives from the notorious “treat them mean, keep them keen” style of dating, which is often adopted by those who want to attract partners they might otherwise consider to be “out of their league.” However, this doesn’t instill true keenness, as it’s derived from emotional manipulation rather than genuine interest and compatibility.
Negging doesn’t necessarily end after the initial meeting, either. Some people will aggressively continue this superficial method long into relationships, particularly if they hope to maintain an upper hand or change the other person by passive aggressively repeating certain insults.
I’d also like to note that this act doesn’t just occur in the dating scene—it can happen among friends, in workplaces, and even within family structures.
Just to be clear, despite the fact that negging might get someone a date or may even result in a relationship, it is not cute, funny, or clever. It is deceptive emotional manipulation, and even when it is done subtly, the majority of us will be able to spot it and identify it as red flag behavior. Even those who don’t instantly catch on will usually be able to see through the smokescreen eventually, if they linger around the hunter long enough.
However, in spite of our intelligence, many of us have fallen for this type of false charm in the past. Our interest may have been intensified in the short-term, but in time, we realized that this pattern of passive aggressive communication was not the basis of a sustainable relationship. At this point, we silently or loudly gave a “f*ck you” response—ironically causing the negger to become the negged.
When we look at negging with some common sense, it should strike us as odd that someone would work hard to prove themselves to someone who consistently criticizes or bullies them and, on the other hand, that someone would feel proud of their “catch” when the person is really only interested in them because they felt a need to win back their sense of self-worth after it has taken a hit from the negging.
It’s quite tragic to think there are actually books, websites, and coaches out there teaching people this dating “hack” by quoting science and using lingo such as “targets” and “acquisitions” to describe those they are hoping to dupe. It’s hard to imagine people believing that they have to learn how to manipulate someone just to get a date—especially when this approach means that it’s not really a date, it’s simply the first stage of a potentially emotionally abusive dynamic.
Ultimately, mind games do not make someone appear valuable and enigmatic; they make someone (who might actually be a genuine person underneath the faux seduction mask) look like a complete jerk.
Nothing screams “desperate” louder than when someone has to resort to messing with someone else’s mind to get a date, or when they attempt to keep someone “hooked” by making them lose confidence through breaking their spirit.
We may all joke around, we can all affectionately tease, but when it is done with deliberately to harm another’s self-esteem, it’s a whole other story.
Instead of deceptive manipulation, let’s make vulnerability, honesty, and kindness the keys to winning the dating game.
Author: Alex Myles
Editor: Callie Rushton
Copy Editor: Danielle Beutell
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis