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What is negging? How to spot the toxic flirting trend seen on Love Island


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  • So not our type on paper..

    Ever heard the line, “he’s teasing you because he likes you?” Then you may have experienced negging.

    According to dating and relationship expert Callisto Adams, the toxic dating trend describes manipulating another person through comments about them that make them feel inferior. Recent stats from LoveHoney showed that 34% of Brits have experienced negging.

    It’s been headline news this week thanks to the latest season of Love Island, where viewers accused Deji of negging Lacey. On their first date, Deji told Lacey “when I first saw you, I thought you were going to be boring”.

    When Lacey asks why he said that, he responds: “I don’t know you gave me school teacher vibes.. but sexy school teacher vibes”.

    In this instance, Lacey continues to enjoy the date, perhaps because the initial negative comment ended on a “sexy” note. It shows how easy it can be to completely ignore the negative connotations and continue to get to know someone who uses this toxic way of flirting.

    “It’s a very poor, one-sided method of communication and doesn’t show any real connection between two people,” explains dating and relationships expert at Knect Jo Hemmings. “Especially as there is no way of knowing how this will escalate as the relationship develops.”

    Let’s be clear here: negging is a form of emotional abuse, and emotional abuse is never acceptable, no matter how normal or even acceptable it may begin to feel.

    As our Abusive Is Not Love campaign highlights, there are a whole range of things that constitute emotional and domestic abuse, often making the red flags difficult to spot. Keep scrolling for your need-to-knows and to learn more about negging.

    What is negging? 

    An abbreviation of “negative comments”,” this way of flirting is being branded toxic by relationship experts for several reasons – largely because it isn’t a kind way to treat others, and healthy flirting shouldn’t bring others down to boost your own ego.

    When a partner is negging, they’ll stereotypically insult you and then put it down to being “just a joke” or even “banter.” It can even come under the guise of constructive criticism.

    The premise is the negative comment leaves the person on the receiving end feeling as though they have to prove themselves., which can in turn create a power imbalance – not how a healthy relationship starts.

    How to spot negging: 3 tips

    1. Be wary of compliments that also contain an insult 

    Being able to spot negging and call it out is crucial. If you’re dating someone or in a longer term relationship, try and take note of how they compliment you. Why? Because if the compliments are often backhanded or passive aggressive, then it’s a red flag.

    Negging will sound like, “You look good today, I wasn’t expecting that” or “I thought you were too pretty to be clever.” 

    2. Look out for insults disguised as questions 

    As well as back-handed compliments, negging can span disguising insults as questions.

    Things like “I’m surprised you did so well. Who helped you?” aren’t kind or a compassionate way to treat others.

    3. Listen to your emotions

    And finally, listen to your gut – how does your partner make you feel? If the answer to that is ever humiliated or disheartened, then you may have an imbalance that needs addressing.

    “If your partner or someone you are dating is often bringing you down, then they could be experiencing negging,” explains Emma Hathorn, Relationship and Dating Expert from dating platform Seeking.

    “Negging can often be disguised as a compliment or constructive criticism, but this behaviour can break your self-confidence.” adds Hathorn.

    How to deal with negging, according to the experts

    As humans, we’re prone to making mistakes, explains Hathron. “That said, emotional abuse is not an accident. If it happens time and time again, then you shouldn’t ignore it.”

    Bottom line: it’s vital that you don’t change yourself or your behaviour based on these disrespectful comments or to suit a partner’s expectation of you, continues the expert.

    “The easiest way to deal with it is to stop interacting with some who makes you feel uncomfortable. And secondly, the most important thing is to call it out – to tell someone that you don’t like the way it makes you feel,” she adds.

    A key flag of negging is consistently responding, when called out, by saying they’re simply joking.

    “They may say they are not responsible for how you feel and that there was no poor intention behind it – this is called gaslighting – but your own instincts will help you know when to step away from this unacceptable behaviour.” explains Hemmings.

    If you or someone you know has experienced abuse, do head to Women’s Aid for more information on domestic abuse, and where to find support.



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