Do You Even Neg, Bro?

Check out the second question in this advice column, from a woman who’s having problems with a male coworker. The woman talks about “negging,” a strategy originally advocated by the pickup artist populace. Her issue is that this guy seemed to like her, but then started negging her relentlessly:

He’s vile to me and critical of everything I do, not just in terms of my work but also my personality and habits and tastes and, well, everything. It sure feels a lot like negging …

For those of you who believe in the idea of negging, let’s be clear on something here:

Negging, in whatever form you choose to execute it, does not mean insulting the other person. It does not mean that you’re vile or critical.

It’s playful flirting.

It’s being socially intelligent enough to know what you can tease someone about versus what is outright inappropriate. It’s saying something that will make the other person laugh or blush in a positive way. It is not ripping on the other person to make yourself look better.

If anything, the term came about as a way to stop socially unaware guys from lavishing the women they’re hitting on with creepy, unwanted compliments. Let’s face it, tons of guys do believe that if they tell a woman how hot she is, she’ll be flattered and like them back. In this respect, I do get the impetus for negging.

Welp, the technique has backfired spectacularly. And now we have men outright insulting women because they think that’s what negging entails.

Personally, I think the problem is the term itself. “Negging” connotes doing something negative, so it’s easy to misconstrue as saying something insulting.

To me, “banter” is a far more appropriate term and far less likely to lead to confusion and misuse. Because ultimately, that’s what we’re going for — not one person alternatively adulating or belittling the other person, but two people engaging in a back-and-forth of playful comments.

That’s how flirting actually works.

So if you’re the type of guy who thinks a comment like, “Oh, you look like shit,” is an effective way to stoke a girl’s interest, then bro, you’re doing it wrong.

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