Since the day SMS was born, women everywhere have spent countless hours poring over their cell phones with girlfriends, attempting to decode, analyze, and just plain figure out a response to all the vague and flat-out confusing text messages they’ve received from men. Websites such as HeTexted.com have even been devoted to the art. No matter how many texts you’ve worked your way through, there will always be those messages that make you pause and exclaim, “What does he even mean by that?!”
Luckily for you, we recruited those who know best to weigh in on the issue. With the help of some awesome relationship experts, Her Campus is here to decode some of the most common types of confusing text messages!
1. The Noncommittal Text
“I might be going.”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“I’ll let you know.”
Is he simply indecisive, or does he have you on the back burner?
What it means: When a guy is evasive about what he’s doing later on, it usually isn’t because he has so many plans and just can’t decide—it’s you he can’t make his mind up about. According to Patrick Wanis, a human behavior and relationship expert, “often when someone hasn’t made up their mind, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re noncommittal; it really could imply something worse, such as, ‘I’m waiting for the bigger, better offer.’”
Carole Lieberman, M.D., psychiatrist and author of Bad Girls: Why Men Love Them & How Good Girls Can Learn Their Secrets, agrees. “What he really means is that he’s hoping for a better opportunity to come up,” she says. “If he doesn’t find another girl to do something with (whom he likes better), he’ll settle for you.”
How to respond: Attempt to make the non-committer commit. Say, “Let me know when you figure it out!” or even ask, “What else do you have going on tonight?” Assertive, yes, but it’s the best way to coax a direct answer from the evasive texter. And if he still doesn’t give you a specific answer, don’t waste your time on him.
2. The Rain Check Text
“Sorry, can’t tonight.”
“Too much work to do.”
“Maybe next week?”
How much work could he possibly have? And if he were sincerely interested in you, would he really let it get in the way of seeing you?
What it means: He really could have too much work to do, or he really could be out of town visiting his grandparents, or he really might be way too tired after work to see a movie. “But, on the other hand, he's being particularly vague about making future plans, so he's not all that enthusiastic about seeing you,” Lieberman points out.
If we’ve learned anything about men, it’s that when a guy wants to see you, he will go well out of his way to ensure that it happens. So while not all hope is lost when a guy can’t keep a date, this type of message should make you wary.
How to respond: According to Wanis, “The best way to respond to this is to say, ‘Okay, I’m available Wednesday or Thursday, which day [works for you]?’ What you’re doing is responding in a masculine manner by being direct and clear, and you’re now giving him an option.” If your guy is interested, he’ll willingly agree to make alternative plans and, this time, he’ll (hopefully) keep them.
3. The Flake-Out Text
“Sorry I missed your text!”
You texted. He didn’t reply. But now he’s apologizing for it. Is it sincere, or was his oversight intentional?
What it means: With all the emails and texts and tweets and wall posts we’re flooded with on a daily basis, there is a chance your text escaped his notice. But if seeing your name on his phone doesn’t immediately grab is attention, chances are he doesn’t regard you as a top priority.
The fact that he acknowledged his lack of response shows that he does have some courtesy, but only enough to respond when it’s convenient for him. It’s more likely that, instead of truly missing your text, your guy was evading a conversation he didn’t feel like having at the time–or didn’t want to have altogether—and claimed to have “missed” your text as a handy excuse.
How to respond: Play it cool. If he can’t make your conversation a priority, then make sure he knows that he’s not a priority of yours: “Oh, don’t worry about it. I forgot I even texted you!” Your flippancy might just make your guy step up his game (and pay better attention to his phone!).
4. The One-Worded Text
What does it mean when a guy has suddenly morphed into an inarticulate caveman?
What it means: Wanis says there are three reasons a guy might send this type of message: “One, the guy is sincerely busy. Two, he’s stressed out. Three, he doesn’t really care that much.” While Lieberman points out that there are occasions when one word will suffice, especially if your guy is in the middle of something else, “it could [also] mean that he just doesn't think you're worth the effort of texting more.”
Just like with the rain check text message, your guy could be otherwise occupied. But if he were really into you, you’d probably be able to get a little more out of him than “sweet” when you tell him about your day, even if he’s in the middle of a Game of Thrones marathon.
How to respond: Instead of trying to pull teeth to get your guy to talk, the best way to deal with this message is to take the hint. Wrap up the convo and try him again later when he’s a little less distracted and, with any luck, a little more talkative.
5. The Overly Complimentary Text
“You were definitely the most beautiful girl at the bar tonight.”
“You look unbelievably sexy when you’re working out.”
“That dress makes you look just like Beyoncé––but hotter.”
Beautiful, sexy, hotter than Beyoncé… how could this guy not be infatuated with you? Unless it’s all a bunch of BS from a practiced player. But how can you tell the difference?
What it means: Whether sincere or not, two things are certain: this guy is very confident, and he’s very interested in you—it’s just a question of whether he’s interested in a relationship with you, or just a quick hook-up. “He could be really hot for you and not afraid to tell you,” says Lieberman. “Or he could just be trying to get you to go to bed with him as quickly as possible, and hopes that flattery will make you believe that he wants a relationship with you, not just a hook-up.”
Wanis says the most important things to consider with every text message are the context and your existing relationship with the sender. “If you’re already friends, he might be trying to take the friendship to another level,” he says. If you’ve just met this guy, however, Wanis says that he might be trying to get to know you better, “or he could just be a great player who knows how to compliment a woman so he can win her over.” Tread with caution, collegiettes; this guy may know the right things to say, but he may not have the best intentions.
How to respond: Don’t let his flattery blind you. Respond with playful quip, so your guy knows he can’t take you for a ride: “Oh, stop, I’m blushing,” or, “Oh yeah, nothing sexier than a girl sweating her face off on a treadmill.” Put that guy in his place and he’ll know in the future not to set off your BS detector.
6. The Delayed Text
You: [2:14 p.m.] “Hey, what are you up to?”
Him: [8:27 p.m.] “nm, just watching the game.”
You asked him how his week is going and he says that it’s going really well, thanks... five hours later. What’s with the time delay?
What it means: He could be busy, he could be distracted, he could be at work or in class or driving or on an airplane or on the moon. But more often than not, your guy is playing games. Taking his sweet time to respond to you is your guy’s way of telling you that he has better things to do and that holding his end of the conversation is not his greatest concern.
If your guy is really interested in you, he won’t leave you hanging in the middle of a convo without an excuse. However, if you initiate the conversation and his first reply is delayed, your guy might actually have been busy (and will hopefully also offer an explanation!)
How to respond: It’s tempting to prompt a guy with a “Hello?” or “Are you there?” or the ever desperate “?????” but it’s best not to acknowledge the delay—if he’s not actually busy, that’s what he wants, after all. His not responding to one of your messages is far less humiliating than not responding to eight of them. And though you’ll want to play games in return (“Okay, so for each hour he made me wait for his reply, I’m going to wait for two hours to reply to him…”) you should give a relatively prompt reply once he responds again. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and two people playing games can make for a conversation that gets absolutely nowhere fast.
7. The Booty-Call Text
[10:45 p.m.]“Yo. What’s up?”
[12:30 a.m.] “You back yet?”
[1:15 a.m.] “Let’s hang.”
Chances are, if any sort of text like this is sent after dark, he doesn’t want to know “what is up,” but rather if you’re “down” to hook up. So do you go for it?
What it means: Christine Hart, dating coach and founder of YourDateCoach, says, “If a guy is interested in a serious relationship, he is not going to send booty-call texts at 3 a.m. Men know better than that. Also, if a guy is interested in pursuing a serious relationship, he does not send you texts like: ‘sup?’ or ‘where you at?’ or ‘you awake?’”
Lieberman agrees, saying that to respond to the booty call is to relinquish control of the relationship. “It shows that he's just using you for sex,” she says. “He obviously has no respect for you if he thinks all he has to do is text you to get you to give him whatever he wants.” There’s nothing wrong with giving in to a little carnal desire every now and then. But if you’re looking for a relationship, collegiettes, the booty call guy is not the one to pursue. This guy is perfect for some consensually detached, late night fun, but you probably shouldn’t hold your breath for this guy to take you out on a date.
How to respond: If a hook-up buddy isn’t what you’re seeking, then make it known. The best way to express your disinterest in these types of texts? Silence. “You can let a guy know you refuse to take his messages that late by ignoring them,” says Wanis. If this guy really wants to see you outside of his dorm room in the wee hours of the morning, he’ll get the picture and text you at a more socially acceptable hour.
8. The Unprompted Sext
“So, about that dress that made you look bangin’ like Beyoncé…”
“[Picture you would never want your parents to see]”
Do we even need to explain this one any further?
What it means: Guys, as Wanis says, are very visual creatures. So, his unsolicited requests for photos or unexpected confessions of fantasies could be expressing a strong attraction to you—or he’s simply attempting to satisfy his arousal through some naughty texting with the first girl that came up on his contacts list.
Whether his sexual come-ons are a reflection of his attraction to you or a reflection of his horniness, your guy wouldn’t be sexting if he wanted a relationship. An interested guy will find another way to express his attraction you––and usually it’s a way that isn’t X-rated.
How to respond: Just like the booty call, there’s no reason not to reciprocate if you’re not looking for anything serious. But if a relationship is what you want, and you want a boy who’s just as serious about being in one as you are, ignore these texts. You’ll save yourself a lot of grief—and a lot of anxiety about composing the perfect “sexy” reply.
Hart says that if a guy is interested in a serious relationship, his text message to you will read more like this: “Hey (name), are you free this weekend? I’ve got passes to…” or “Good to see you at (event) last night! What are you up to this Friday?” His messages will be respectful, direct, and express the desire to make definite plans with you in the future. Bottom line: if a guy is really interested, you won’t need to hire a cryptographer to figure that out.
Someday those guys might stop playing games (we’re hoping it’ll be different in the post-college dating scene), but until then we’ll just have to use our intuition—and a little advice—to decipher all their confusing text messages.