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Since the day SMS was born, women have spent countless hours poring over their cell phones with their friends, attempting to decode, analyze, and just plain figure out how to respond to all the vague and flat-out confusing text messages they’ve received from their crush. No matter how many texts you’ve worked your way through, there will always be those messages that make you pause and exclaim, “What do they even mean by that?!”

Luckily for you, I’ve recruited those who know best to weigh in on the issue. With the help of some awesome relationship experts, here’s your guide to decoding some of the most common types of confusing text messages when you’re in the flirting stage.


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1. The Noncommittal Text

“I might be going.”
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“I’ll let you know.”

Are they simply indecisive, or do they have you on the back burner?

What it means:

When someone is evasive about what they’re doing later, it usually isn’t because they have so many plans and just can’t decide — it’s you they can’t make up their mind 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., 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 they still don’t give you a specific answer, don’t waste your time on them.

2. The Rain Check Text

“Sorry, can’t tonight.”
“Too much work to do.”
“Maybe next week?”

How much work could they possibly have? And if they were sincerely interested in you, would they really let it get in the way of seeing you?

What it means:

They really could have too much work to do, or they could be out of town visiting grandparents, or they 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,” Dr. Lieberman says.

If you learn anything about dating, it’s that when your crush wants to see you, they will go well out of their way to ensure that it happens. While not all hope is lost when someone can’t keep a date, this type of message should make you wary.

How to respond:

According to Dr. Wanis, your response should be straightforward. “The best way to respond to this is to say, ‘Okay, I’m available Wednesday or Thursday, which day [works for you]?’” he says. “You’re now giving him an option.” If your crush is interested, they’ll willingly agree to make alternative plans and (hopefully) keep them.

3. The Flake-Out Text

“Sorry I missed your text!”

You texted. They didn’t reply. But now they’re apologizing for it. Is it sincere, or was their oversight intentional?

What it means:

With all the emails, texts, tweets, and DMs you’re flooded with on a daily basis, there is a chance your text escaped their notice. But if seeing your name on their phone doesn’t immediately grab  attention, chances are they don’t regard you as a top priority.

The fact that they acknowledged the lack of response shows that they do have some courtesy, but only enough to respond when it’s convenient. It’s more likely that, instead of truly missing your text, your crush was evading a conversation they 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 you truly believe they did not see your text, you can respond with a simple “no worries!” or “it’s ok!” However, if you feel they aren’t making your conversation a priority, then make sure they know that they’re not a priority of yours: “Oh, don’t worry about it. I forgot about it!” Your flippancy might just make your person-of-interest step up their game. 

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

4. The One-Worded Text


What does it mean when your crush has suddenly morphed into an inarticulate caveperson?

What it means:

Dr. Wanis says there are three reasons someone 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,” he says. While Dr. Lieberman points out that there are occasions when one word will suffice, especially if your guy is in the middle of something else, she says one word responses “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 crush could be otherwise occupied. But if they were really into you, you’d probably be able to get a little more out of them than “sweet” when you tell them about your day, even if they’re in the middle of playing Fortnite for the 19th hour.

How to respond:

Instead of trying to pull teeth to get your crush to talk, the best way to deal with this message is to take the hint. Wrap up the convo and try them again later when they’re a little less distracted and, with any luck, a little more talkative. 

5. The Delayed Text

You: [2:14 p.m.] “Hey, what are you up to?”

Them: [8:27 p.m.] “nm, just watching the game.”

You asked how this week is going and they say that it’s going really well, thanks … five hours later. What’s with the time delay?

What it means:

They could be busy, they could be distracted, they could be at work or in class or driving or on an airplane or on the moon. But they could also be playing games. Taking their sweet time to respond to you may be your crush’s way of telling you that they has better things to do and that holding the conversation is not a great concern.

How to respond:

It’s tempting to prompt someone with a “Hello?” or “Are you there?” or the ever desperate “?????” but it’s best not to acknowledge the delay. Them 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 they made me wait for a reply, I’m going to wait for two hours to reply to them…”) you should give a relatively prompt reply once they respond again. Two wrongs don’t make a right, and two people playing games can make for a conversation that gets nowhere fast.

6. The Booty-Call Text

[10:45 p.m.] “Yo. What’s up?”

[12:30 a.m.] “You back yet?”

[1:15 a.m.] “U up?”

Chances are if any sort of text like this is sent after dark, they doesn’t want to know “what is up,” but rather if you’re “down” to hook up. Do you go for it?

What it means:

Christine Hart, a dating coach, 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?’”

Dr. Lieberman agrees, saying that responding to a 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, the booty call is not the one to pursue. This person might be perfect for some consensual, detached, late-night fun, but you probably shouldn’t hold your breath for this person 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 Dr. Wanis.

7. The Unprompted Sext

Do we even need to explain this one any further?

What it means:

So, someone’s unsolicited requests for photos or unexpected confessions of fantasies could be expressing a strong attraction to you —or they’re simply attempting to satisfy arousal through some naughty texting with the first girl that came up on their contact list.

Whether sexual come-ons are a reflection of their attraction to you or a reflection of their horniness, your person should be expressing their attraction to you in other ways — ways that aren’t X-rated. Harmless flirting is one thing, but sexting is very different and you may not want to get into it with someone before you’re in a committed relationship.

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 partner 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 person is interested in a serious relationship, their 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?” The messages will be respectful, direct, and express the desire to make definite plans with you in the future.

The bottom line: if a person is really interested, you won’t need to hire a cryptographer to figure that out. Someday people might stop playing games (is it different in the post-college dating scene?), but until then you’ll just have to use intuition — and a little advice — to decipher all their confusing text messages.

Corinne Sullivan is an editorial intern at Her Campus. She is in her senior year at Boston College, majoring in English with a Creative Writing Concentration. On campus, she cheers at football and basketball games as part of the Boston College Pom Squad and performs as a member of the Dance Organization of Boston College. She also teaches spin classes at the campus gym and contributes to the BC branch of Her Campus. Corinne loves the beach, all things chocolate, and is unashamed of her love for Young Adult Fiction. You can follow her on Twitter at @cesullivan14. 
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