Top 10: Negging Tactics

Did you really need to take this picture?
Chicago, IL. 2019.

We’re just a few days into 2020, and a few important things are still up for debate. Is the United States in deep sh*t with Iran? Is Australia going to be OK? Does Donald Trump sleep? When is The Weeknd going to drop the full album? Will Joe Goldberg ever truly change?

Luckily, there are a few natural observations in which we can fully invest our confidence without debate: vaccinations are necessary, planet earth is an imperfect sphere (but still round), and no human should be denied medical attention. Oh, word? OK, 0/3. Better buckle up now.

Modern civilization is still as dependent on chemical and electrical impulses as our primordial fish-cousins (Jesus-fish if that’s your thing). Even though we are arguably more evolved (at least in the cosmetic persuasion – thanks, Urban Decay!), we’re still squishy sacks of bones just as reliant on sodium, potassium, electrons, protons, and successful procreation.

This means we are blindly ruled by a few laws of the natural world that we are #blessed to inhabit. Today, we’re zeroing in on two: the Law of Charges and the Law of Conservation Charge. The first explains that negative charges are automatically attracted to positive charges; and that matching charges actively repel each other. The second states that charge cannot be created or destroyed, but only transferred.

Get to the point you say? Friendships, relationships, and situationships alike are complicated AF. Each person brings their own set of learned behaviors, communication styles, traumas, triggers, judgments, etc. As long as all parties are dedicated to honesty, empathy, and reciprocity; most misunderstandings and transgressions can be smoothed over with relative ease.

When those parties are instead invested in secrecy, contempt, and selfishness; any relationship can become extremely painful. These maladaptive behaviors can range from disagreeableness, or manipulation, to full-blown malignant narcissism.

Some unpleasant interactions are natural. Passionate disagreements, outbursts of emotion, and even terrible mistakes can become ultimately quite productive. Yet, when status, emotional instability, and contempt are introduced into the equation; incredible distress ensues. In my experience, these ugly behaviors are the most destructive when they are masked by a pretty face and a preoccupation with control.

Negging refers to a deliberate act of emotional manipulation where the goal is to covertly attack one’s self-esteem, eventually increasing their dependency on another’s approval. The ultimate goal is to eventually use this codependency to control the victim’s behavior.

This is far different from criticism, disagreements, or general negativity. Negging is covert. It is manipulative. It is insidious. It is less content-focused and more aimed towards draining another’s self-esteem. When done expertly, the victim unknowingly develops low self-esteem, unidentifiable anxiety, and interdependence on their abuser. The victim does not identify the cause of their suffering until it is too late (which leads to gaslighting – another fun topic for another time!).

So why the science lesson? Why bring up the Law of Charge and the Conservation of Charge? Because, victims are targeted by the darkness of another due to their contrasted brightness and positivity. Yet, no matter how many attempts are made, the victim’s inherent worth and specialness does not change. That’s when it’s time to pack up all your atoms and move on to bigger and better things. Or whatever Lizzo said.

I have included a list of the Top 10: Negging Tactics to help you identify this far-too-common bullsh*t in your daily life. As you’ll see, these are usually quick, dismissive and disproving comments that leave you feeling ‘less than’ and a little bewildered as to why.

You aren’t taking a picture of that are you? As someone who will take a picture of damn near anything, I’ve heard this from countless onlookers. The obvious answer to their question is ‘yes’. But my question is – if you see someone is starry-eyed over something, what is the advantage of knocking them down a peg? Maybe it is their first time in a limousine, their first time in a window-seat, or their first attempt at making a creme brulee.

You weren’t actually serious about liking ___ were you? As if you were joking about liking Bernie Sanders, Miley Cyrus, or Miracle Whip. This is a really sly attempt at letting you know you’re being disproved of, and also being granted an opportunity to change your answer. It isn’t a conversation starter, it’s a defense-maker and a heart-breaker.

(That thing you love) is highly overrated. I’ve found this is many peoples’ favorite way to ‘flirt’. Because what is more attractive than being told you’re uninformed, silly, and altogether #basic? Whether it’s your love for Andy Warhol, Patron tequila, or underboob tattoos – keep loving that thing you love. The good news is you’re not seeking approval nearly as much as the person that says this to you.

Why do you talk that way? I’ve been criticized for my formal language, my love for adjectives, and the way my hands dance around while I talk. I’ve found that people who are comfortable criticizing me for this are rather insecure about their own communication style. Once you recognize this type of comment for what it is, it makes you wonder if the person who says this to you enjoys your company at all.

Do you even know who originally created ___? How dare you like a remake. How dare you be unaware of the originating tale. How dare you not study these things in grave detail so that you could be prepared for this posturing conversation.

That was actually pretty (funny/smart/sexy). What a delightful way to let someone know you had lower expectations of them. And that you have nothing interesting to offer in return.

I didn’t take you as the type that would know about ___. This one is a fun twist on the Negging Tactic listed above. Except this one is more blatantly rude. The only appropriate response is “Yes, I know of a few small things. And, surprisingly, Joan Jett is one of them. Thank god we can continue this conversation!”.

Sorry you went through (insert trauma), but what did you do to deserve it? This one is particularly upsetting, because it is within the context of sharing an intimate story with someone you trust. While their inability to understand how bad things can happen to good people says more about them than it does about you, it can be totally heartbreaking.

Comments on how easy/difficult it is to seduce you. This invites the concept of ‘gaming’ into your relationship. It reminds you of your comparison to other conquests. It labels you as a specific type of person, and attaches associated attributes and invites you to try to prove your worthiness and/or ‘differentness’. If you’re insecure about why someone is/isn’t sleeping with you – just ask them! Don’t mind-read.

Can you ever let a man just be nice to you? #Triggered. Yeah, lets start now. Stop talking to me this way. This is just as creepy as when strange men demand that you smile for them.

It is possible that reading this list helped you identify the neggers in your life. Maybe it explains why you feel unworthy around certain people. Or maybe, you’ve learned that you have picked up some of these unhealthy, controlling habits over the years. None of us are immune when it comes to sh*tty behavior.

Brene Brown emphasizes the importance of perceiving others through a lens of vulnerability so that we may take their behavior less personal. She explains that even the most toxic narcissists are born from a world of internal shame and insecurity. They are paralyzed by their need to be interesting, special and worthy.

Narcissists have an intense “fear of never feeling extraordinary enough to be noticed, to be lovable, to belong, or to cultivate a sense of purpose” (Daring Greatly, 2012). So it is no surprise that they may be intimidated by another’s confidence or assuredness of their own worth. In result, their deep insecurities are projected upon us. While not all neggers are narcissists, this understanding is important in moving forward.

Negging allows one to assert dominance over another. It positions them in the power of deciding ‘enoughness’. It is learned from painful moments where they were first mocked, belittled, or reduced. They lack the ability (or confidence in their ability) to communicate openly and honestly. So, they resort to building emotional walls. Negging serves as the rusty barbed wire on top that either keeps others at a distance or entirely enmeshed.

While the vulnerability lens may empower you to perceive others’ behavior in a compassionate manner, it doesn’t suggest you continue to endure it. It also doesn’t suggest you actively fight back. It is best to simply disengage.

In 2020, we’re in serious need of healthy boundaries. We must remember that while we cannot change others, we can decide who we want to keep within arms length. Be nice to other bags of bones, and expect them to be nice to you too.

TL;DR: If you can’t say anything nice, keep scrolling. If someone negs you, don’t let it drain your light. And, if you feel the need to attack someone’s self esteem – invest in some good therapy.


Spotify Playlist: This one will remind you how fierce you are!
The Drip Podcast: Stay tuned for some exciting updates!
Email: Share stories and suggestions at espressointhesuburbs@gmail.com.
IG: follow me @espressointhesuburbs



“Love is where you find it. [It] is foolish to go around looking for it, [and that action] can be poisonous. I wish that people who are conventionally supposed to love each other would say to each other when they fight, ‘Please! A little less love and a little more common decency‘.”

Kurt Vonnegut. Slapstick or Lonesome No More! 1976.


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