Is He Negging You? 10 Signs He’s Trying To Secretly Destroy Your Confidence

Of all the dumb tactics thought up by self-proclaimed pickup artists, negging has to be one of the stupidest ones out there. Designed to undermine a woman’s self-confidence so she’s more likely to seek your approval, this technique is basically a backhanded compliment. Done wrong, it makes it immediately clear that this dude is a joke who has no idea how to speak to other people. Done right, it’s a little sneakier. If you feel like you’re being negged, here are some signs that you’re right:

  1. His “compliments” don’t feel quite right. You might not be able to immediately pinpoint what’s off about them, but the things he says to you feel a little strange. Something deep inside you might feel mildly insulted, which at first might be odd since you could have sworn he was trying to say something nice to you. But in reality, that’s kind of the point of a neg. It’s an insult disguised as a compliment, intended to lower your self-esteem just enough that you won’t feel “out of his league,” but not enough that you’ll flip him off and walk away.
  2. He emphasizes that you’re not his type. The purpose of negging is to bring you down to a guy’s level. He wants to make you feel like you should have to win HIS favor, not the other way around. So he might say something like, “I don’t normally like brunettes, but you’re pretty cute!” Seems innocent enough, but what he’s really trying to do is make you work harder to show him that you’re worth his time, since he’d have you believe that your hair color is already working against you. It sounds ridiculous because it is.
  3. He gives you suggestions to “fix” your flaws. A guy who negs would never want to turn you off so much that you avoid him entirely, so he has to make you feel like you have a chance with him. In his mind, the best way to do this is to critique things that you can change about yourself. So for example, rather than saying that you have an ugly nose, he’ll say, “Your nose would be so cute if you didn’t have that septum piercing.” In other words, “All you have to do is make this small change and I’ll be attracted to you.”
  4. He makes you feel like only he would appreciate you. One way that guys who neg try to crack your self confidence is by making you feel like they’re the only option you have. Be on the lookout for phrases like, “Not many guys are into girls with lots of tattoos, but I think you’re so hot.” In a way, he’s pinning this neg on other men so he can make himself stand out as the “good guy” even when he’s really the jerk.
  5. He feeds you “compliment sandwiches.” This tactic is known for being a gentle way to encourage an employee to improve at work, but it’s also used in the dating world. Neggy men will do this knowing that you’re more likely to focus on the negative than the positive, so they’ll say something like, “I love those jeans on you. They’re a little too tight around the waist, but they make your butt look great.” It’s rude AF, but they still think it’s a good idea.
  6. He compares you to other women. This is a subtle neg that can seem like a genuine compliment if you don’t know to look out for it. The guy will use something about your personality or appearance to cut down when he notices it in “other girls,” but say that you pull it off well. Put your guard up if you hear him say, “Not many women can pull off that lip color, but you look great in it,” or, “Nerdy girls are normally weird, but you’re really cool.” The idea is for you to feel like you’re walking on thin ice, that one slip-up will put you right into the pool of those lame “other girls.”
  7. He contrasts his first impression of you with his current impression of you. This “technique” is designed to make you feel self-conscious about the first impression you give off. The guy wants to keep you on your toes, lest you slip up and reveal that he was right about you. If you hear something like, “You looked like one of those typical bitchy rich girls before I got to know you,” stay far away from him.
  8. He makes comments that aren’t insults, but still make you insecure. Some negs seem like they aren’t meant to be negs at all, but don’t be fooled: the guys who make these comments know exactly what they want to achieve. They might casually point out things that they know you’ll be insecure about, like, “With the way your ears stick out, you look just like a cute little mouse!” They know you’re already self-conscious about your ears, and they want you to know they’ve noticed your greatest “flaw.”
  9. He tries to make himself appear more desirable than you. Thankfully, this neg is a lot easier to see right through. The dude’s theory is that by cutting you down and building himself up, you’ll think he’s out of YOUR league instead of the other way around. He might try to hit you with something like, “Just one more drink and I’ll be ready to hit on you.” Whatever makes you feel special, bro.
  10. He brings attention to the effort you make on your appearance. Do you wear makeup, dye your hair, or get manicures? Apparently, that makes you a prime target for a neg. The guy will throw you a line like, “I love your hair. Is that your natural color?” or, “Your nails look cute. Are they real?” This is supposed to make you aware that he knows you’re not completely “natural” or something, but all it really does is make us think he’s stupid for wondering if our hair is naturally fire-engine red.
Averi is a word nerd and Brazilian jiu jitsu brown belt. She's also a TEFL/TESOL-certified ESL teacher and an equine enthusiast. Originally from Pennsylvania, she lived in Costa Rica for a while before moving to Australia. In addition to her work as a writer and editor for Bolde, she also has bylines with Little Things and regularly writes for Jiu-Jitsu Times.

You can follow Averi on Instagram @bjjaveri or on Twitter under the same handle.