“The neg” is a manipulative, insulting comment that’s used to control your romantic partner or potential partner. They’re something along the lines of, “I bet you’re too much in a hurry to finish reading this article.” Slightly miffed? These slight insults are designed to rile us up and make us want to prove them wrong. Unfortunately, we prove them wrong by doing exactly what they want us to do. We’re emotionally buffered against huge negative events, but small ones get under our skin. That emotional buffer does not get activated.
The neg is becoming more famous thanks to books and internet tips, so it’s important to prepare yourself to deal with these negs. The first step to protecting yourself is to realize that you can and probably will fall for negs. If you think it won’t work on you, you’re vulnerable to just knee-jerking exactly how they want you to. I’ve explained the neg to someone who skeptically dismissed the tactic, and tricked them with a neg 5 minutes later. Always be on your guard and if something ticks you off, step back and remind yourself of their ulterior motive.
Negs are mainly used in two areas: when trying to pick up on someone and when trying to get someone to do something in the relationship. I’ll talk about the pick-up first.
If someone tries to pick you up with a neg, such as, “You’re probably too hot to go out on a date with me,” or, “why did you ruin your beautiful hair with highlights?” take a deep, calming breath. Remember, if they’ve read about this tactic, they’ve probably heard advice along the lines that negs “penetrate a woman’s [or man’s] bitch shield”. Is that someone you really want to talk with?
Here’s the appropriate response. First thing; call them out. Tell them you know they used a neg (“nice neg” will do) as this will diminish their power and catch them off guard. Second thing; leave. Don’t get sucked into a discussion, it just wastes time on someone you know is a jerk. Even though the neg will still probably annoy you, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing what they tried to do and that you stopped it.
If you’re the one trying to pick up people, remember that negs will not get someone who’s genuinely interested in you, only someone you’ve tricked. You might get more satisfaction and fulfillment from someone you’re mentally connected with in your classes, clubs, work or neighborhood.
Negs are also commonly used in relationships, although there’s much less press about it. For example, “If you really loved me, you’d buy me that present.” These inject a feeling of slight despair and make the receiver feel the need to prove them wrong. Negs in relationships are much more dangerous, they gradually wear down the receiver and stress the relationship. To deal with it, first call it out, but gently.
Say something like, “I feel like you’re saying that just to get me to do what you want. Of course I love you, but I don’t want to feel pressured into something. Can we talk about this?” It may feel like a mouthful, but it will catch the offender off-guard and your partner will probably agree to a discussion instead of sneaky tactics. They’ll also reflect on their methods and realize that they should use discussion instead of manipulation in the future.
If you’re the one trying to push your partner using these negs, you might want to reconsider. They’re alienating you from your partner and stressing the relationship. If you want something from the relationship, or if you feel neglected or unloved in the relationship, discuss it. Try something such as, “I feel something’s different, what’s wrong?” Furthermore, don’t try to use manipulation to keep together a failing relationship.