A few years back, Neil Strauss published a book entitled The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists. The book chronicles Strauss’ journey from “chick repellant” to a master of seduction, a feat he accomplished by hiring a very expensive pickup “expert” to teach him the tricks of the trade. Among the things he learned was a technique known as “negging,” which essentially involves belittling a woman upon meeting her. The idea is that by lowering her self-esteem through a mild insult, she will be more easily seduced. In other words, if you can undermine her confidence, she’ll be more likely to settle for you instead of holding out for a better guy.
Not only do a number of men employ this technique while prowling for hook-ups, but some also practice it in their everyday relationships to keep their partners from leaving. As some evidence of this, research shows that the men who hurl the most insults at their partners also engage in the most “mate retention” behaviors, actions designed to make sure their partner stays in the relationship.1 It is interesting to note that the men who do this tend to have low “mate value,” meaning that guys who are less desirable in general (e.g., perhaps because they are poor or unattractive) are the most likely to verbally attack their partners as a way of getting them to stick around.2
So does negging work? Can it actually help you to both find and keep a romantic or sexual partner? Perhaps, but it’s unlikely (especially if you’re looking to establish a long-term relationship). A large body of research indicates that women are far more attracted to people who make them feel good than people who make them feel bad. Who knew? In fact, when women rank-order their ideal characteristics in a partner, “kindness and compassion” is their second most desired trait!3 Believe it or not, “treats me like garbage” does not make the list. It is also useful to note that at the end of The Game, Strauss reports that his pickup techniques failed when he eventually went looking for love.
To sum up, although some guys may find short-term success with negging, it seems doubtful that putting someone down could ever form the basis of a successful, long-term relationship.
1McKibbin, W. F., Goetz, A. T., Shackelford, T. K., Schipper., L. D., Starratt, V. G., & Stewart-Williams, S. (2007). Why do men insult their intimate partners? Personality and Individual Differences, 43, 231-241.
2Miner, E. J., Shackelford, T. K., & Starratt, V. G. (2009). Mate value of romantic partners predicts men’s partner-directed verbal insults. Personality and Individual Differences, 46, 135-149.
3Regan, P. C., & Bercheid, E. (1997). Gender differences in characteristics desired in a potential sexual and marriage partner. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 9, 25-37.
Dr. Justin Lehmiller – Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Lehmiller’s research program focuses on how secrecy and stigmatization impact relationship quality and physical and psychological health. He also conducts research on commitment, sexuality, and safer-sex practices.
image source: msn.com