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The Warning Signs of Negging

The European Journal » The Warning Signs of Negging

You know when you meet someone, and you’re talking and they say something that just feels a bit… negative? But not once or twice, they’ll respond to practically anything you say with a subtle dig or backhanded compliment. If you’ve had this kind of experience where you get the feeling that someone’s intentionally pointing out negative things about you or the conversation, they’re probably negging you. And if you’re never heard of this dating phenomenon before, you’re about to learn about it.

When you’re dating someone, it’s easy to see things very idealistically. Of course, we want things to go well, but thinking this way means that we’re a bit more vulnerable to people who don’t have the best of intentions. From red flags and ghosting to things like negging, there’s a lot to look out for when you’re meeting new people. 


Negging is a relatively new term for something that a lot of us have probably experienced at some point in our lives. It can happen in pretty much any social interaction, be it in a conversation with friends, a meeting with a colleague or on a date. 

It’s a tactic that’s associated with pick up artists, but anyone (usually men) can neg someone. We’re going to look at how it comes up in the context of dating (obviously) and how you can spot it.

What is Negging?

Negging is the act of using negative comments or subtle digs to make someone feel worse about themselves and more interested in you.

The term comes from the verb, neg, which is to give someone negative feedback. In the context of dating, negging is something that people do to insult their date, but like, subtly, so that they’re more receptive to their romantic advances.

Negging is Actually Just Emotional Manipulation

It sounds a bit wild, right? But negging is actually a form of emotional manipulation because that person uses negativity to undermine the other’s confidence, make them feel inferior, and then almost feel grateful that that person is interested in them. And it’s more common than you think.

Examples of Negging

They Give You Backhanded Compliments

You might associate backhanded compliments with jealous friends, but it’s also a key part of negging. The person doing the negging wants you to feel bad about yourself but will use a compliment to almost soften the blow. Not cool.

Backhanded compliments include lines like:

  • ‘You’re good-looking for a fat girl.’
  • ‘I wasn’t expecting you to be so smart!’
  • ‘You’re a paralegal? Isn’t that what people who don’t have what it takes to be lawyers do?’

They Insult You But Play it Off as a Joke

We’ve all met people who believe that being a dick is a personality trait, and anyone who uses negging as a dating tactic definitely does. Whether they’re a self-proclaimed comedian or claim to have a ‘dry’ sense of humour, insults carried off as jokes are still insults. 

And this isn’t to say that a bit of flirty banter is off the table, but it’s something you have with someone that you either have a good relationship with or have a good connection with. And if the ‘jokes’ fall flat with you, then all you really have left are insults. 

They Give You Unnecessary ‘Constructive Criticism’

Someone who enjoys negging others may also have the audacity to give ‘constructive criticism’ to a virtual stranger *eye roll*. Whether they make unhelpful observations about the way you pronounce a word or tell you you’d look better if you wore a different colour, giving out criticism to someone to make them feel silly or bad is classic negging behaviour.

They Compare You to Other People

This one is an easy one to spot, especially if the person they’re comparing you to is an ex. It’s a universally accepted relationship red flag. So if your date spends more time comparing you to people they’ve been with, whether it’s your style, hair, voice or choice of drink, they really aren’t interested in you, they’re interested in making you feel inferior. 

They Ask You Jarring Questions

Questions like ‘Do you wear makeup because you’re insecure?’ are never good conversation starters, and only highlight negative points. These questions are designed to make you negatively reflect on yourself and encourage you to question yourself.

How to React to Being Negged

Confront Them

A lot of the time, people treat others like shit because they can get away with it. So try addressing their comments or ‘jokes.’ Chances are that once questioned, their aloof, judgey facade will fall to reveal a pretty insecure guy.

Avoid, Avoid, Avoid!

No one wants to be with someone who feels the need to make others feel bad. So if you realise that you’re being negged, get yourself out of the situation. Whether you decide to tell them why you’re not interested anymore or want to abruptly cut ties is up to you, but the most important thing is that you end things, and save yourself time, energy and potential heartache. 

Reassure Yourself

Like any form of emotional manipulation, whether you like it or not, experiencing negging is likely to affect even the most self-confident person. Take some time to remind yourself that their negative comments and subtle digs are simply a projection of their own feelings of inadequacy and nothing to do with you.

Look Out for Signs of Negging in the Future

Negging really is a shit thing to experience, but if there’s anything to take from it, it’s to know how to spot it in the future. So remember that gut feeling that you had when he was making those subtle digs and if you have it again when talking to someone else, run for the hills!