No one likes being misled. One minute, you think you understand what’s going on, and another, it seems you’ve been getting it all wrong. That’s what mixed signals feel like. However, as much as it might feel like heartbreak (something you’d rather avoid), you need to understand that these misunderstandings are not a mistake. When you feel like you have misunderstood a person’s intentions, there’s usually an underlying message that is being communicated.

For instance, if a man cancels a date at the last minute (repeatedly), it means something much more than him not wanting to spend time with you at that moment. In some cases, it might be a message of uninterest, and in other cases, it might be a nudge for help.

In this post, we’ll explore mixed signals meaning, the types of mixed signals, how to decode it from guys and girls, and most importantly, how to respond to mixed signals when you notice them. Let’s get started!

Mixed Signals Meaning

Regardless of the dynamics of the relationship, human relationships are complex simply because of one thing: they involve humans! We are complex people, and one thing that makes relationships thrive, even with our complexity, is the ability to express what you want. In simpler words, communication allows for clarity in relationships.

However, it is very possible to communicate two opposing things at once. If what you say does not align with your actions, it leaves the person on the receiving end confused, and it becomes hard to understand what you mean or want. Also, if you blow hot and cold almost simultaneously regularly, it sends a signal to the person on the receiving end, and they would need to decode your message. So, what exactly does mixed signals mean?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as a showing of thoughts or feelings very different. In relationships, mixed signals are expressed when a person’s words and actions do not match up. For example, they express interest in you with their words, and their actions say something entirely different. Or they seem like they are all in one day and seem distant the next—not once or twice but consistently.

Types Of Mixed Signals

So, now that we have an answer to the question “What are mixed signals?” you should know that there are different ways that it can appear. Remember the analogy of the traffic lights? Two lights of different meanings pop up at once.

The thing with mixed signals in relationships is not that a person is not necessarily communicating at all but that a person is communicating two or more opposing things at once—mostly about interest in a person.

There are several ways in which that could happen in reality, and it does not matter the kind of relationship. Anyway, let’s take a look at some types of mixed signals. Firstly, sending mixed signals could either be unintended or intended.

Unintended Mixed Signals

It is a hard truth, but it is true. Not all actions are intended to convey the meaning we perceive them to have. Some mixed signals are unintended. For example, if you are just starting a relationship, hanging out and spending time is key in making something good out of it (this applies to any kind of relationship). However, if the other person confesses how much you mean to them regularly but does not find time to hang out or do so much interaction because of busyness, you will begin to doubt their confessions. But busyness is a valid reason to cancel plans to hang out. Also, people could pass on a wrong message in their actions if they are not self-aware.

Two important things to note here: Relationships thrive on communication, and if you notice any mixed signals coming from a person, you should try to speak with them about how you feel and question them for clarity. This way, you know if it will be worthwhile being with them or not.

Also, you must be objective in your conclusion and considerate in your demands. This way, no one suffers in trying to meet the demands or fill the needs of their loved ones.

Intended Mixed Signals

When mixed signals are given intentionally, they are done to be in control of someone else’s emotions, keeping them in the loop till the controller can. It is a manipulation technique used in relationships to get someone else interested in you until you decide what you want. It is an unhealthy and hurtful way of communicating.

A better way is to have an honest conversation with the other person and discuss what you want or envision for the relationship. This way, the other party can decide what is best for them. However, suppose you struggle to express yourself or communicate what you want from a relationship. In that case, it is best to speak with professional counselors because they are trained to help you navigate such difficult situations.

We will explore other types of mixed signals in the examples. But first, you should know that mixed signals can come from anyone in a relationship. Mostly from those who are undecided about what they want and others who have not learned how to communicate clearly. We find that many men are in either of these categories, and the question that comes to mind almost immediately is, “Why do men give mixed signals?”

Why Do Men Give Mixed Signals?

While there is no justifiable reason for anyone to indulge in this behavior, it is a good idea to understand some of the reasons. That way, we can know how to approach it better— head-on while still being empathetic. Here are some reasons why men give mixed signals in relationships:

They have not decided what they want

Here’s the thing: when people decide what they want—out of a relationship—they unapologetically go for it. When men have decided, they find a way to communicate with the other person. Sending mixed signals could be a way of saying, “I don’t know yet,” “Is this what I want, or do I really wanna do this?”. So, instead of speaking directly about what they do or do not want, a man could end up giving different signals (or colors of light) at once to keep you close and distant all at once. Confusing right? A heart-to-heart discussion on what you want from the relationship will help.

They have attachment issues

In the 1950s, two researchers, John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth, discovered that how caregivers interact with children takes a toll on the children as time passes. Adults might not realize their learned behavior in relationships until later in life. These two researchers brought about the birth of attachment theory.

Attachment, according to Psychology Today,  is “the emotional bond that forms between infant and caregiver, and it is how the helpless infant gets primary needs met. It then becomes an engine of subsequent social, emotional, and cognitive development.”

Particularly, a man with an avoidant attachment style may struggle to communicate clearly when experiencing intense situations. They might disappear to sort out their issues alone. When this happens consistently, you become confused and begin to doubt if there was ever any real thing between you both. The good news is attachment issues can be well addressed if you visit a professional to work it out.

They are afraid of rejection.

This is also related to the attachment style that we discussed earlier. Men also fear being rejected by someone they really like. To avoid the hurt, they show actions that portray interest while also keeping you at a distance to prevent any further closeness. This is not a healthy way to deal with it, though. For relationships to thrive, vulnerability and hard conversations have to happen. If you have faced rejection or know anyone navigating that phase who finds it hard, please reach out.

You are not the only one they are seeing

Yes! Another reason why a man could give mixed signals is if he is seeing someone else. This is not encouraged because it takes a toll on people’s emotions. When a man has more than one person he is in a relationship with, he has to suffer or both. He blows hot and cold in one while he keeps the other serious. Or blows hot and cold in both. Regardless, it is unkind to play with people’s emotions without intention. If you have been through this sort of thing and find it hard to heal, schedule an appointment with a therapist to walk you through the healing process. Healing is possible.

Mixed Signals From A Girl

In case you’re thinking, Do girls also give mixed signals? Short answer: Yes, they do.

The reasons why men give mixed signals could also apply to why you’re getting mixed signals from a girl. But we’ll also add a few more that are common to just girls.

She is pretending to be inaccessible

One reason you may get mixed signals from a girl is that she wants you to desire her. It has been noticed that men like to be the chasers. Also, it could be that she wants to get your attention for any reason. However, it is not a healthy way of stating your needs. Mixed signals are not to be condoned. The better way is to discuss exactly what you want.

She wants to evaluate you

Because patience is key in relationships; a girl may want to know how best you can handle situations and how patient you are. So, she might employ this unhealthy behavior. However, there are healthier ways to know the patience of a person than by playing with their emotions.

She is not interested in you

People will go all in and express when they are keenly interested in being with a person. Those hot and cold behaviors could be a sign that she is not interested in whatever you have to offer, and she may not know a better way to communicate it. However, communication can be learned, and giving mixed signals is never a healthy way to tell someone that you do not feel them.

Mixed Signals In Friendship

Sending mixed signals can also happen in platonic friendships. This can happen when they begin to find you attractive but are either seeing someone else or preventing the relationship from going south. All the same, sending mixed signals in friendships is not healthy; it’s best to have honest conversations about the dynamics of your friendship.

Mixed Signals Examples

There are several mixed signals examples, but we’ll share just a few that you can quickly spot. Here are some of them:

  1. Flirting with others
  2. Constantly cancel plans to be together
  3. Only show up when it’s comfortable
  4. Shying away from a deeper emotional connection

These are a few noticeable ones. If you notice any behavior that you are not comfortable with, it is best to have a conversation with them.

How To Respond To Mixed Signals?

Whether you have experienced it or not, it is best to know how to deal with mixed signals before you see them.

The first thing is to ask yourself if you are not overthinking the relationship. It could be that you are ready for a different phase, and they aren’t. Also, it is good to be objective and question if you are not indulging in such behavior. They could be confused as well and reciprocate what you give them. Thirdly, their behavior may be because of an underlying issue. So it’s best to approach it with empathy.

Lastly, a direct conversation addressing the issue with them is best. If they have a civil conversation with you, there could be a compromise and a way forward. If they don’t, it is best to give them some distance.