Negging: Flirting or Manipulation?

The line between flirting and roasting is a fine one but, negging may be erring on the side of manipulation - is it time to leave it in 2022?

If you’re familiar with pick-up artists of the 90s and 00s then negging is likely something you’ve come across before. It’s been part of the dating landscape for decades and is insulting someone to gain attention or affect their self-esteem.

If you’ve ever blanked on what to say when the woman of your dreams walks in then you’ll understand the desire to throw out a back-handed compliment to flirt. 

And in all honesty…a lot of men will have had some success with it when it comes to the closing with the ladies in their life. 

Negging is so culturally embedded into our society that we’re taught from a young age that boys are mean to girls because they “like” them. 

But in 2023 is it time to draw a line between flirty roasting and manipulation and leave negging in the past?

What is negging (and why does it work)?

So, let’s start with what negging is…

Essentially, it’s using backhanded compliments or actions that subtly bring down the self-assurance of the person you’re flirting with. 

It’s a ‘flirting’ technique in which someone deliberately makes negative comments about another person to build a romantic spark and show a woman you like them.


The logic of this is that if you make these comments, then you are seen as hard to get, confident and funny, which are all qualities that are seen as positive in intergender relationships.

Examples of negging

So what is begging, and how can you recognize if you are doing it?

They insult you and blame it on constructive criticism.

One of the most common forms of negging is when someone gives you what they call “constructive criticism” which is a veiled insult toward you.

For example, the person could say, “wow, your shoes look good when they aren’t paired with those jeans”.

This form is negging is so destructive because it can easily fly under the radar. 

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An unhealthy comparison 

Another common form of negging is comparing a woman to someone else. This could be an ex, another woman you remark on for being attractive, or a friend.

For example: “your friend Holly looks hot today. I wish you wore a top like that.”

This deliberately makes that person compare themselves mentally to someone else, which is never healthy. 

Backhanded compliments

You are probably most familiar with this form of negging. This is when you pay someone a compliment but disguise an insult within it, which is perceptible to the recipient. 

For example: “you look good for once”.

Most of these statements are meant to be light-hearted. But they might come off as deeply insulting or even abusive, and over time can become insidious and detrimental to your partner. 

Is negging manipulation?

“Treat em mean, keep em keen.”

There is a widespread cultural normalization that being mean is a good way to show someone you like them. But it constitutes emotional manipulation that can cause long-term harm the person on the receiving end. 

It’s designed to spark a strong negative emotional reaction in the other person – whether anger, insecurity or confusion – thereby putting them under your emotional control.

No one wants to be constantly berated by their partner, belittled or mocked for their clothing, or insulted repeatedly.

While some men might argue that women enjoy sparring with partners and engaging in banter, negging often takes it too far. There is a difference between trading flirty insults and outright attacking someone for details they can’t change.

It is the same as comparing friendly joshing between friends with bullying. One comes from a place of love and affection, and the other comes from a place of hate and frustration.

Is negging manipulation

Ultimately, negging will push your partner away and prevent you from connecting on a meaningful level. After all, even if you only want a casual fling with that person, you must trust each other enough to escalate the relationship. 

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Most people can see through the technique and may become even more emotionally remote and distant. Even if the person you’re interacting with doesn’t consciously recognize your negativity, they may still pick up on the fact that you’re not being genuine or authentic, which can be a major turn-off.

While it may work occasionally, the fact that it is unethical and a way of generating an artificial response means it will cause more harm than good.

So, if negging is so negative, what’s the alternative? 

The line between roasting and flirting is fine! And while we’re not suggesting your drop the flirty banter – there are alternatives.

So, what the best approach is when talking to women?

Negging is a poor technique to use, but the reason why you might be tempted is that it is a tried and tested method.

Well, instead, the best approach to take is to be yourself. Although this is incredibly cliched advice, it is 100% true.

Human beings have an in-built instinct for authenticity. It is why the funniest comedians are the ones who appear to riff off spontaneity, and the most seductive individuals at the pinnacle of popular culture all appear to be huge, distinctive characters.

Therefore, the most sensible approach is to be your authentic self. While you might want to put on a more respectable and formal front when you first get to know someone (no one wants to be scared off by your weirdest thoughts just yet), you should still get out of your head and into the conversation.

This means being genuine in your compliments and expressing appreciation for the person you’re interacting with sincerely and respectfully. It also means avoiding negative or belittling comments and building a positive connection.

Another crucial part of a respectful conversation is active listening. 

People love knowing they are being listened to without the guy having wandering thoughts or being caught up in their head. Being a good listener means paying attention to what the other person is saying and showing interest in the conversation. 

Being an active listener can help build genuine trust and strengthen your connection with the person you’re interacting with.

How to flirt in a healthy way

It is helpful to go back to basics if you want to flirt correctly without resorting to manipulation tactics or cliche pickup lines.

Flirting is a way of expressing attraction towards someone by playfully or light-heartedly chatting with them. 

Flirting typically involves other cues, such as making eye contact, smiling, using body language to convey interest, and engaging in playful banter or conversation. 

To get better at flirting, work on improving your confidence first. When you are comfortable, you will be more attractive to women.

The next step is to pay attention to body language and other nonverbal cues. These can be powerful indicators of someone’s attraction towards you, and you can use them to gauge whether your flirting is well received. 

For example, if the person you are chatting with holds your eye contact, leans toward you, and mirrors your body language, she is probably into you. On the other hand, if she’s crossing her arms, avoiding eye contact, or leaning away, she may already be thinking of calling it a night.

You should also be careful of the words and actions you choose when flirting. Avoid anything inappropriate or disrespectful, such as making unwanted physical advances or using overly sexualized language. 

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An excellent way to get to know someone is to ask open-ended questions about their interests, hobbies, or goals. Listen attentively and show a genuine interest in what they have to say. It’s a great way to build a deeper connection.

And finally, confidence is super important. Being comfortable in your skin and willing to take risks can be attractive. Don’t brag, overcompensate or be a know-it-all, but be confident in yourself. It will make all the difference.

How to feel more natural when flirting

Society puts a lot of pressure on guys to be strong, assertive, and sure of themselves. 

But let’s face it. Not everyone is naturally confident all the time. This is perfectly normal, so don’t stress about it. Flirting is meant to be fun and carefree, not a logical equation that must be thought out for hours.

If you’re looking for ways to boost your confidence when flirting, here are some tips for you:

Work on your self-esteem

Low self-esteem can be a significant hindrance to confidence in social situations. It can be challenging to feel confident around others if your mind is full of negative thought patterns. 

It is essentially a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think you are shy or uncharismatic, that is the vibe you are putting out into the world.

Practice good body language.

Your body language can massively impact how confident you appear to others. 

If you have defensive body languages – such as slouched shoulders, zero eye contact and crossed arms, then people are less likely to trust you.

How to flirt in a healthy way

Instead, stand up straight, make eye contact, and be relaxed in your posture. Make sure you walk confidently and generally hold yourself with the respect you deserve.

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Dress appropriately

The way you dress can hugely determine your mood. It is why people wear uniforms and feel different if they are wearing a suit rather than jeans.

Choose clothes that fit well and make you feel good about yourself. Above all, wear what feels comfortable and portrays the right image to others.

Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is being present at the moment and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings without judgment. 

It can help you feel more confident in social situations by helping you focus on the present and not get caught up in negative thoughts or self-doubt. 

You can practice mindfulness by taking a few deep breaths and focusing on your breath or by paying attention to your surroundings and consciousness.

Practice assertiveness

Assertiveness is the ability to express your needs and boundaries directly and respectfully. It can be especially important for men to practice assertiveness, as societal expectations often pressure men to be strong and decisive. 

You can practice assertiveness by clearly stating your opinions and needs and standing up for yourself when necessary.

Finding a new way to flirt…

Negging is a negative emotional manipulation technique that can harm someone’s self-esteem and self-image if used aggressively. Not only is negging a poor way to treat other people, but it doesn’t work. While it might get a woman’s attention, she will quickly realize what you are doing and even think you are insecure about resorting to such tactics.

Therefore, it is a pointless technique to practice, especially when there are many other, healthier approaches to flirting.

While many pickup artists and dating coaches like to overcomplicate dating – and flirting in particular – in reality, it is simple. You have fun, use a light-hearted approach and don’t take the situation too seriously.

When you overthink anything, it tends to balloon out of proportion and become ruined.

Instead of treating it with perfectionism, you should approach flirting as improvised comedy. It isn’t meant to be taken seriously, and it isn’t meant to be perfect.

That way, you will allow the real you to come to the fore, granting you all the success with women you could ever want. Whether looking for a fling or a serious relationship, acting with confidence and respect for others is always crucial. 

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