Narcissists are notorious for their scathing criticisms & verbal abuse. Overt narcissists in particular love telling their victims how fat, skinny, ugly, stupid, useless they are & more. They have no problem spelling out their victims’ supposed flaws very clearly.
When the narcissist in question is a parent, this is often the norm. That child probably doesn’t remember any time where their narcissistic parent wasn’t obviously cruel with their words. Other relationships with narcissists are different, however. No one would get involved with a narcissist if they saw upon meeting them how cruel they were. Possessing the ability to be creative in ways to abuse, they have found a fantastic tool that allows them to abuse while not appearing to be abusive. Covert narcissists use this tool constantly, while overts usually only use it at the beginning of relationships. This tool is called negging.
Negging subtly tears down a person’s self esteem while not appearing to be abusive. Negging is done by offering complements that aren’t really complements but insults disguised as complements or constructive criticism. The comments also can involve comparing a victim to someone else, “one upping” or brushed off as “just joking”. Some examples are:
- It’s ok you didn’t get a good grade in that class. The course was too hard for you, so I didn’t expect you to get a good grade.
- That’s amazing you got such a good grade on that test! Who helped you study?
- I like what you’ve done with your makeup. Did you learn how to do that from your sister?
- You’ve lost so much weight! I really see it in your face!
- You really don’t care what other people think of you at all, do you?
- Congratulations on your promotion! I just got engaged!
- I was just kidding!
- Wow, you sure are easily offended! Seems like I can’t say anything without you getting upset.
Negging is also commonly used when a narcissist is trying to start up a romantic relationship. They may say comments such as:
- You’re normally not my type, but I’d like to go out with you sometime.
- You remind me of my mom/dad/brother/sister.
If someone you just meet says things like this, these could be red flags of narcissism. Your best bet is not to engage this person in any relationship.
If someone you are already in a relationship does this, there are ways to cope. Show no emotional reaction, remember you have the right to protect yourself with healthy boundaries such as refusing to discuss certain topics with this person, don’t insult the other person back as they can use it to prove how unstable or mean you are.
Negging can be difficult to recognize at first due to its subtle nature. If you are unsure if someone in your life is treating you this way, write down what happens. Sometimes seeing things in front of you can help you to see situations more clearly. Or, talk to someone you know who is supportive & emotionally healthy. They will give you a good perspective. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to someone close to you about this, contact a domestic violence center near you or the National Domestic Abuse hotline. Examine your life & how it has changed since this person came into your life. Is this person isolating you from your friends & family, for example? Isolation is a very big red flag of abusers. Even if this person isn’t obviously trying to keep you from others, does this person insult those you love? That is a very subtle way of isolating someone.
I wish you the best in your situation!