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Negging, the hurtful slights abusive partners can slip into conversation.

What is negging, how to spot it and what to do if it is in your life.



Negging, a term coined from the word "negative," is a manipulative tactic used in dating and relationships where backhanded compliments or veiled insults are used to chip away at a person’s self-esteem.


It is very difficult to spot as it may seem harmless or even flirtatious. But negging is an emotionally abusive behaviour that can leave lasting effects on your self-worth, if experienced repeatedly.


This article will try to lift the veil on negging and explain why many people fail to recognise its abusive impact.


What is negging?


Negging can be seen as a method of getting control in a relationship.


The abusive partner creates feelings of insecurity and self-doubt in their partner, making them more motivated towards seeking the abuser's validation and approval.


This approach is very difficult to spot. It can be seen as a part of the early grooming process in an abusive relationship, but also as a continued method of maintaining control. Many victims feel that they deserved these comments or that their value is low, failing to notice that the behaviour is the cause.


It is most helpful to see examples, as they can be every so difficult to recognise. Here is a lengthy list to read through. If any of these resonate in your own relationship, don’t rush past – this is a sign to spend more time thinking about the reality you live in.



Examples of Negging, all sexes included:


1. "You're so pretty for a curvy girl."

This seemingly complimentary statement is a classic example of negging. The compliment is tainted by the implication that the person's attractiveness is unusual or unexpected due to their body shape.


2. "You're not like other girls."

While this statement might sound positive, it is problematic because it implies that there is something inherently wrong with "other girls." It also pits the recipient against an imaginary standard, creating insecurity and pressure to maintain the abuser's approval.


3. "I like that you don't care about your appearance."

This comment is a backhanded compliment that subtly criticises the person's appearance while appearing to praise their nonchalance.


4. "You're surprisingly smart for someone in your field."

This negging example implies that the person's intelligence is unexpected, given their chosen profession. It simultaneously belittles their career choice and undermines their abilities.


5. "You're so brave for wearing that shirt; not many guys can pull it off."

This comment, disguised as a compliment, subtly criticizes the man's fashion choice and implies that he is taking a risk by wearing the shirt, potentially making him feel self-conscious about his appearance.


6. "It's cute how you're not obsessed with working out like other guys."

While this statement may seem complimentary, it indirectly suggests that the man's physique is not as impressive as those of other men who prioritize fitness, potentially making him feel insecure about his body.


7. "I like how you're not afraid to show your sensitive side, even though some people might find it unmanly."

This backhanded compliment undermines the man's masculinity while seemingly praising his emotional openness, creating feelings of insecurity and self-doubt.


8. "You're really funny, especially for an engineer."

This comment implies that the person’s sense of humour is unexpected given their profession, subtly suggesting that their career choice is generally perceived as dull or lacking in charisma.


9. "You must be really smart to compensate for your lack of social skills."

This negging example simultaneously compliments the person’s intelligence while putting down their social abilities, causing him to question their interpersonal skills.


Why Negging Goes Unnoticed


Negging can be really challenging to spot because it often masquerades as teasing or flirtatious banter.


In many cases, the victim may not recognise the behaviour as abusive because it is subtle, and the perpetrator may even claim that they are "just joking."


“Don’t over-react, I am just joking”.. is also a form of gaslighting, which you can read about here. Together with negging, gaslighting and negging are a cocktail for confusion for a victim and often a very subtle component of coercive control.


Furthermore, some individuals may not have been exposed to healthy relationship dynamics, making it difficult for them to recognise the difference between playful teasing and emotional abuse. Low self-esteem and a history of past abuse (childhood, work, romantic relationships and even friends) may also make it challenging for some individuals to identify negging as a harmful behaviour.


Noticing and responding to Negging in your life.




Negging is a subtle form of emotional abuse that can cause significant damage to a person's self-worth and overall well-being.


Recognising the manipulative nature of negging is essential for fostering healthy relationships and seeking help when necessary.


If you suspect that you or someone you know is a victim of negging, it's crucial to reach out to friends, family, or professionals for support and to perhaps consider a programme such as Get Out Get Love. If this resonates with your past experience, you may still have scars that need some repair so consider looking into this.


Remember, everyone deserves to be treated with respect and kindness in their relationships.



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