How — And Why — Men Use 'Negging' To Meet Women

Negging is the new way boys pull your ponytail and leave you in tears, and it's for the same reason.

man standing in front of purple background practicing negging Roman Samborskyi / Shutterstock

Men have truly odd notions on flirting etiquette. Many subconsciously perceive mate-feeding to be associated with showing more intimacy with their object of desire,[fn]Alley, T.R., Brubaker,L.W., & Fox, O. M. (2013). Courtship Feeding in Humans? Human Nature, 24(4), 430–443.[/fn] while others are practically phobic about sharing the food on their plate and would rather pay for an extra order of the same dish —to each their own (in more ways than one).


Perhaps a more conventional concept, though still odd, is that while women are taught to run and hide; men are taught to chase and hunt. (In a more scientific context,[fn]Vannier, S. A., & O’Sullivan, L. F. (2010). Communicating Interest in Sex: Verbal and Nonverbal Initiation of Sexual Activity in Young Adults’ Romantic Dating Relationships. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40(5), 961–969.[/fn] men should always be the initiators, while women should be more discriminating.)

It's like an Impossible Rubik's Cube[fn]Japanese Toy Company Challenges Players With a Rubik’s Cube That’s “Impossible” To Beat. (n.d.). HYPEBEAST.[/…] that no level of dating prowess is guaranteed to be neg-proof. always solve.


Negging, a "technique" promoted by self-proclaimed pick-up artists as a great way to meet women, has become practically ubiquitous. And if you don't want to fall victim to the manipulative practice, you need to know what to watch for.

What is negging?

For the uninitiated, negging is a term used by pick-up artists who say they are simply teaching other men the art of seduction.

The idea of negging is to disarm a woman, knocking down her confidence with an unexpectedly negative remark, thus making her more susceptible to the romantic advances of a man she may not otherwise give the time of day.

According to dating coach Joe Amoia, negging is a form of emotional manipulation. "A person uses emotional manipulation to play off the weakness and insecurities of another in order to make themselves feel better or more powerful," he says.


Is it as awful as it sounds? Well, yes, very much so.

In an article published in the Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, researchers described negging as "the purposeful lowering of a woman’s self-esteem to increase perceived attractiveness of the man in order to achieve sexual conquest" and warned that it "could escalate into an abusive intimate relationship."[fn]Green, K., Kukan, Z., & Tully, R. J. (2017). Public perceptions of “negging”: lowering women’s self-esteem to increase the male’s attractiveness and achieve sexual conquest. Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, 9(2), 95–105.[/fn]

Unfortunately, because of how men and women are programmed when it comes to love and dating, negging is also alive and well, and it often works. Of course, that doesn't make it any less offensive and despicable.

RELATED: 10 Weird Ways Guys Flirt With You (That You're Probably Not Picking Up On)


Examples of negging

1. Backhanded compliments

  • “Wow? I would never be brave enough to go in an outfit like that."
  • “I’m so impressed that you decided to become a teacher. I would never think anyone could survive on that salary.”

2. "Constructive" feedback

  • “Hey, I noticed you were struggling to get up this hill. Maybe you should try bringing more water next time."
  • "I can tell you worked really hard on that look tonight. There's this great Instagram account I follow you might get some better ideas from."

3. Comparisons to others

  • "My best friend at work is an Instagram model. Maybe she can give you some weight loss tips."
  • "Your friend over there has a killer body. Have you thought about working out with her?"

4. "Jokes" at your expense

  • "Whoa you really look good from all the way across the bar!"
  • "Cool shoes! My mom had a pair like those when I was in high school."

5. Playing the victim

  • "I hate to sound jealous but you obviously seem more interested in that guy over there."
  • "Wait, were you offended by that? It's really hard for guys to deal with a woman who has so much baggage she thinks every guy is being a jerk no matter what."

6. One-up-man-ship

  • "Nice necklace. My ex had one like that but the diamonds were a bit bigger."
  • "I'm glad you're feeling better. The last time I had a cold I ended up having to be hospitalized for pneumonia, so lucky you."

7. Disguising insults as questions

  • "Are you sure you want to eat that dessert?"
  • "Do you really think you can hike the full 3 miles?"



RELATED: I "Negged" Men At The Bar To See If This Awful Flirting Tactic Works

Signs a guy is negging you

1. He's not complimenting you, he's being condescending.

You can automatically tell if someone is negging because they try to get your attention during the first three seconds they see you and they say a classic negging opener like, "You’re so cute! (Pets your head) Can you do tricks?" or "Wow, you're actually pretty smart!" or they push you away in a group and ask your friends in a hushed tone, "Oh my gosh, is she always like that?"

2. He's not complimenting you, he's only giving you backhanded compliments.

Once he's caught your attention you might notice the way he words his compliments seems a bit off and it's good to start questioning it and think about what he said again and decipher if it's a backhanded compliment or not.


"Negging, just like bullying, can show up in different forms. It can show up as a backhanded compliment, straight-out criticism, comparison to an ex, or any other form that puts a person down and makes them feel weak or helpless," says Amoia.

3. He only points out your flaws, even when it seems like he's "complimenting" you.

When he's talking to you, he seems as if he's constantly insulting you or pointing out your flaws, disguised as compliments. He'll be especially critical about something that you can't change.

4. He tries to destroy your confidence by convincing you that only he would find you attractive.

He purposely makes you feel like only a guy like him would like a certain something about you that you're probably insecure about, like how big your nose is or how you have gapped teeth.

They often disguise themselves as the "nice" guy so it's hard to realize that what they said was terrible and insidious until you go back and play it over again in your head.


5. He subtly compares you to other women to make you feel inferior.

Men who neg always think there's competition with women and looks in life and these men will constantly point it out to try and make you feel insecure about yourself or make you feel like you're not like other girls, but in a bad way.

6. He manipulates you into constantly craving his approval.

Men who neg love to undermine your self-esteem so that you will somehow subconsciously seek their approval all the time. If you notice that you might want to have his approval first for most things then that's a sign something is off.

7. He likes to "joke around," especially about how you look, so he can break you down.

Men who like to neg always like to throw in jokes that are actually insulting and most likely it's something that has to do with your appearance or personality.

They might say something like, "I love your hair. It's not your natural color, is it?” or, “Your nails look cute. They're real right?” when they know you might dye your hair or get tips or fake nails done.


8. He consistently puts in just enough effort to keep you interested but absolutely nothing more.

If he's negging you he most likely will try and make himself appear more desirable to you by touching or teasing you only sometimes. Whenever you try to reciprocate, he doesn't let you.

He only does the bare minimum to try and wrap you around his finger and then thinks he can be a jerk to you.

RELATED: 8 Things Not To Do When Flirting With Someone You're Super-Into

Nothing a man says when he is negging a woman is meant as a compliment.

Life coach Michelle Thompson explained that men who use negging are simply unwilling to feel their own feelings. "They use it as a way to get you to handle those feelings for them. For instance, when they realize they have been hurtful, they respond by saying 'I was just joking' or 'you’re too sensitive,' instead of feeling their sadness and shame."


According to Thompson, men use negging as a strategy to shift responsibility away from themselves onto you. Men are also notorious for projecting their insecurities onto women.[fn]Samara, I., Roth, T. S., & Kret, M. E. (2021). The Role of Emotion Projection, Sexual Desire, and Self-Rated Attractiveness in the Sexual Overperception Bias. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 50(6), 2507–2516.[/fn]

One way men do that is to deliver a back-handed compliment, an insult disguised as a compliment (so it isn't actually a compliment at all). According to Amoia, an example of negging in the form of a backhanded compliment is if a guy says to a woman and says, "You'd have an incredible body if your breasts were a little bigger." They point out something they think you would be insecure about.

This is the underpinning concept behind all negging. Because, on the surface, negging is supposed to be fun and harmless and casual. If you take it as an insult, you're overreacting, so clearly you're flawed — not the jerk who's doing the negging.

And by making you feel like there's something wrong with you for being hurt by what are genuinely hurtful insults, your confidence plummets and the guy wins.


RELATED: To All The Men Who Say They Want An 'Old-Fashioned Woman'

How to respond to negging

Amoia suggests two ways in which you can respond to negging: "The first is to try to explain to the person how their words made you feel. The second is to tell them to 'piss off!'

"I'm not a big believer in trying to tell a grown adult how to behave," he says, "so I'm going to recommend option number two every time!"

Amoia adds, "The best way to respond is to take responsibility for your own wellbeing — for example, say, 'I will not be around you when you speak to me that way.' Then leave the room."

Bottom line: keep a zero-tolerance policy for this kind of behavior.


It wasn't cool on the playground, and despite whatever some jerks think (probably the same kids who pulled the same stupid pranks on the girls they liked in elementary school), it certainly hasn't aged well.

RELATED: 11 Signs You're 'Flexting' To Impress Your Date (And You're Coming On A Little Strong)

Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer with a passion for lifestyle, geek news, and true crime.