In case you’re not familiar, allow me to explain what negging is.
A guy goes up to a girl who is very clearly out of his league and attempts to shake her self-confidence down a few notches by throwing out some subtle, low-grade insults that aren’t mean enough to deter her from speaking to him, but affect her just enough that she actually wants to keep talking to him … in order to prove herself worthy.
(I know, right? What will these geniuses come up with next?)
Unfortunately, there must have been some guy who claimed that his friend’s roommate’s older brother’s cousin used this tactic and it worked like a charm, because negging’s a legit thing now, mostly done by douche-y men (of course).
But the golden question: Does it work?
To find out if negging works with gender roles reversed, I convinced my friend Andrea (OK, she actually volunteered) to come along on a bar crawl where we picked out the best looking, cockiest dudes we could find and gently insulted them to see how they’d react. Here’s how it went down:
Negging Experiment #1: The Dodgeball Team
I arrived late to meet Andrea at the first bar, where she had already scoped out our first three victims. She sent me a text saying, “This one guy is so cocky,” so upon my entrance, I promptly made him my target.
We made introductions, and when I shook the hand of the way too confident Steve* I made eye contact, smiled at him like I was looking at a newborn kitten and said, “Awww, you remind me of my little brother!” Andrea backed up my claim. He shrunk back a little in his chair and when I asked him how old he was, he lied to my face and added three years to his age — which his buddies called him out on.
There was an “age is just a number, baby” reference made at this point, and even though it was clear by Steve’s body language (and the lie about how old he was) that the neg had taken somewhat of a toll on his previously über-confident attitude, he didn’t relent. In fact, he turned up his game.
Andrea and I went to the bar to get drinks and reconvene as we both tried to think up more negs to use. All three guys were wearing what looked like gym attire, so I ran with it.
“So … did you guys just come from a dodgeball game or something?” I asked them.
They all actually got a kick out of that one, and then explained that they work together as coaches at a college.
“Oh, so these guys have to hang out with you,” I said to Steve, “That explains it.”
Steve then went on to say that you only need a few good friends in your life, and that he has three.
I’m not sure if guys reach a similar point while they’re negging women where they feel like just too much of an asshole to continue, but at this point I felt too mean to call Steve out on the fact that he only has three friends.
So, we said our goodbyes. Steve didn’t ask for either of our numbers. Neither did his buddies.
Negging Experiment #2: The Interns
We walked into the next bar and spotted five very well-dressed men who looked like they had all just stepped out of an important board meeting. We stood next to them and ordered a round of drinks.
“Did you just come from your internship?” Andrea asked one of them.
The rest of the group laughed, while her target, Sam*, was more than happy to clarify that he actually works at his father’s real estate company (thankyouverymuch), and then promptly bought us a round of shots.
As introductions were made between Andrea and myself, I realized we had a problem. And that we had been doing this whole negging thing all wrong.
The point of negging is to score with someone you find extremely attractive, someone out of your league, who you otherwise wouldn’t have had a shot with. Sure, Steve was good-looking but I wasn’t really into him, so being semi-mean to him wasn’t that big of a challenge. But when I was introduced to Jim*, who was about 110 percent my type and a genuinely nice guy, I realized that insulting someone you’re really attracted to is really, really hard — and also terrifying.
Still, I did my best and started out with my tried and true “little brother” line. He asked me what that was supposed to mean just as another round of shots appeared, so luckily I didn’t have to answer.
I briefly went rogue and became a nice person for a few minutes while talking to Jim before Andrea came over and snapped me back into action.
“Oh wow,” she said, grabbing the collar on his shirt, “This is really preppy. I’m not crazy about it.”
“Uhh, well it’s not for everyone,” Jim told her.
Jim then went to take a call, and Andrea filled me on the progress on her negging with Sam. After she continued to put down his real estate gig at his dad’s company (“You just sell houses? So basically, your dad does all the work…”) Sam kept coming back at her with compliments … and more shots.
He was like the little engine that could.
We tried to take a break to figure out a new plan of action, but Sam wouldn’t have it. He kept motioning Andrea to come back over and finally came over to our table.
Then he begged for her number. Literally. As in, “Please, I have to have your number, I have to have it.”
Meanwhile, Jim’s girlfriend showed up and I felt all the feels.
To be fair, had Andrea and I approached each group with a smile and a hello instead of a neg, this night would have turned out very differently.
Steve definitely worked harder to appear confident after each neg was thrown at him. But the fact that he was actually much younger than us made the neg that I opened with too effective, to the point where he never made a full recovery, despite his best efforts. If I hadn’t hit that nerve right off the bat, negging might have resulted in him asking for our numbers — or at least asking us to stay a little longer.
On the flip side, after the negs Andrea threw at Sam, he ended up following her around like a puppy for the rest of the night, which I’m willing to bet wouldn’t have happened had she simply opened with “Hi” and engaged him in a normal conversation.
So: Does negging “work” on guys?
If your end goal is to make the good looking guy at the bar interested in you, then yes, using a neg as an opener will make him eager to prove himself. But the bigger question you should probably be asking yourself is, “Do I really want to be with a guy that I had to do an entire confidence takedown on in order for him to be interested in me?”
I sure as hell don’t.