I was talking to a colleague the other day about a guy both of us knew and neither of us liked, and when I mentioned that he was a "pathological negger," my colleague's eyes narrowed in confusion.
"As in: he likes to neg girls for their attention," I went on.
My colleague still didn't understand.
"You don't know what negging is?" I asked.
"No, what is it?" he replied.
Negging is when you try to gain someone's affection by insulting them, or giving them a backhanded compliment in order to wound their confidence. It's the exact opposite of saying something nice in the hope of making them happy. The theory is that if you're a total asshole, the girl will become vulnerable allowing potential further advances to proceed with less of a defense. It's a tool used by people who have no real interest in relationships or the feelings of others and are generally just looking to score. It's typically employed by guys who are so insecure themselves that negging is the only way they feel comfortable expressing themselves. That way, in case they're eventually turned down or rebuffed, they can say they were never interested in the first place. It's a sure-fire sign of someone who lacks self confidence, and it's also a defense mechanism against criticism.
"So like I said, he's always negging women, which is repulsive." I continued. "You'd think at this point he'd realize that being nice to people is really the only way he's going to get anyone to like him. Ultimately, you have to be yourself."
I'm bringing this encounter up here on the blog because "negging" is a big part of wine and spirits culture, too. It works in the exact same way. You see these same guys walking snootily around a big wine tasting, calling people out for their opinions, pointing out when someone says something wrong, correcting little details here and there, and hoping to damage the confidence of everyone around them. Yet, ironically, rather than walking away from the group in disgust after doing so, they still want to keep interacting. I've been around hundreds of people like this over the last decade. They'll insult me to my face about my opinions, yet they really want to be my friend! They want attention, but they don't know how to go about it like a regular human being, so they neg. But then they'll email me and ask if I want to come to their tasting, or something like that. I've had customers neg me over the years as well. They'll point out how I was completely wrong about something, or how my last recommendation was inaccurate, but then they'll keep hounding me for more advice! You end up saying to yourself: "If I'm so wrong about everything, why are you so obsessed with what I think?" It can be a flabbergasting experience because of the irony involved, but—trust me—this is a real phenomenon.
It's a crazy world out there. Sometimes I'm not sure if understanding the psychology behind these actions makes me more depressed or helps me to cope.