How To Identify Negging In a Relationship

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New words keep popping up in the dating world. Today’s word is negging.

Coined from the word ‘negative’, the term negging was first used by pickup artists.

It is an act of emotional manipulation where a person uses insults disguised as compliments (backhanded compliments) to lower another person’s self-esteem.

It is usually done as a form of flirting and aims at making the victim desire the abuser’s approval.

I first came across this word in 2020, and after looking it up on Google

It dawned on me that I had been negged a couple of times. Back in high school, I was used to getting comments like: “Short girls are obnoxious and unattractive, but there’s something about you.” Or “I would have passed you off as pretty if it weren’t for your full lips.” Comments like these took a toll on my confidence. I secretly wished I could undergo surgery or something that would make my imperfections go away. I even resorted to high heel shoes, and I literally kept my lips folded most of the time.

Although men aren’t immune to it, women are the most common victims. I’m guessing that’s because of how vulnerable we are to emotional abuse.

Negging should not be tolerated for any reason because, most times, it’ll slowly develop into severe emotional or physical abuse.

Oh, and just so you’d know, it may not always come from a romantic partner. It could come from a parent, boss, friend, or work colleague.

An Australian study showed that 25% of women experience emotional abuse in their relationships compared to 16.67% of men.”

Here are four ways to identify this toxic trait in your partner or anyone at all:

How To Identify Negging


1. They keep giving you backhanded compliments

Never mistake a sweet compliment for a backhanded one. A backhanded compliment is a statement that comes off as an insult but sounds like an actual compliment. For instance, if you let your date read a book you wrote, they say, “I like how your book is so easy to read. If I didn’t know better, I’d say it was written by a 5-year-old.”

Comments like these are meant to make you feel good and then bring you down to your lowest level.

2. They ask too many questions

It’s easy to think your date is really interested in you when they ask many questions.

Sometimes if you look closely, you’d find that these questions are insults in disguise. Most times, the negger asks questions that don’t exactly require an answer but rather communicate disapproval. For example: “Did you look at yourself in the mirror before leaving the house?”

Pay more attention to the tone they use in asking such questions. If it sounds disdainful or disapproving, you know it’s time to pause.

3. They keep comparing you to others

I remember my experience with this guy. He would tell me how my friend was hot, but he thought I was unique in my own way, so he went for me.

The goal is to make you feel insufficient and like you’re lucky they looked your way.

4. You care too much about what they think

The ultimate goal of negging is to reduce your self-confidence to its barest minimum. It becomes so bad that you seek their opinion for everything.

If your partner makes all the major decisions in the relationship, chances are that you are being negged.

During E41 of the Women Who Rebrand Podcast, Charisse Cooke, Relationships Therapist, dives into the unconscious behaviours that can sabotage relationships. Tune in to gain insight into how to build a healthy relationship that communicates and works.

How To Respond To Negging 

Now that you’ve identified being negged, how do you break free?

If you aren’t well acquainted with the manipulator -probably some random guy you met at the bar or on a dating site- you can just walk away from all that toxic energy.

In my case, the relationship had yet to start when I realised I was being negged. So I felt a confrontation was a waste of time and energy.  However, if the person in question is your partner -one you want to continue dating- it’s best to address the issue like adults.

Don’t beat about the bush, be direct and say it as it is. But be nice about it, don’t go yelling at them or causing a scene. Trust me; violence will get you nowhere.

For instance, you can say, “Babe, I notice you’ve been making snide remarks about my features, and I don’t appreciate them. They make me feel like I’m not good enough.”  But be careful during these confrontations; some of these manipulators are so good that they’d make you feel bad for pointing out their offence. They may even respond with what we call gaslighting.

If you’ve done the best you can and they still don’t change, do yourself a favour and walk out of that relationship

Now, I know that walking away isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially when your manipulator has succeeded in reducing your confidence to its barest minimum. 

You can regain your confidence by surrounding yourself with people who appreciate you. I’ve learnt to love my features and damn what anyone thinks.

Today, I wear the best lipsticks to flaunt my full lips, and I still rock my sexy heels. Only this time, I’m doing it to make me feel good!

So honey, no matter who the negging is coming from, it’s not your fault, and you don’t have to accept it!

Relationships are all about compromise and understanding each other’s needs, so remember that when things get tricky!

Lastly, remember to have fun! Life is too short not to enjoy each other’s company, so take some time out of each day just for the two of you – whether that means going out on a date night or staying in and watching movies – whatever works best within your relationship.

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