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Texting is convenient and easy. And I hate to say it, ladies, but barring a technological apocalypse, this subpar form of communication is here to stay.

I will be the first to admit that many men, myself included, struggle with communication. When you add on the nonexpressive, shorthanded nature of digital conversations, you have the perfect recipe for confusion. If you have watched Aziz Ansari or have ever tried to coordinate a date with someone via text, you know how easy it is to get wires crossed.

I know women spend a good deal of time trying to figure out what exactly a man means by a one-word text—or worse, a long pause. And let’s be honest, guys often share in this struggle. But here’s the thing: Women who suspect there is more behind a simple text are absolutely right. Text messages rarely communicate exactly what the sender intends.

The more we can understand the ways men and women like to communicate, the better chance our relationships have. Luckily, there are some keys to breaking the man text code.

The One-Word Response 

“Sure.” “Fine.” “OK.” “Yeah.” I can only imagine how these might drive women crazy. You ask us something important, and we respond in a way that is really hard to decipher or can come off as just plain rude.

“If I’m excited about an upcoming date night, and I text him some tentative plans or ask his opinion, seeing that ‘whatever’ in my inbox just makes me think he doesn’t care about spending time with me,” one woman tells me.

Men do not always realize how single words and phrases sent in a hurry can be misinterpreted and even come across as disrespectful. The simple answer is that we usually are trying to save time or are in the middle of something. What goes through my head when I am in this situation is, “Let me text back really quickly just to let her know I got it.” I am not trying to be sarcastic or indifferent, and I don’t know how much time I am really saving by typing such a quick response, but trust me when I send a text like this that it does not come from a place of indifference.

I am extremely task-oriented. As a result, I become focused on whatever task or project I am currently working on. This makes it difficult for me to transition out of that task and in to a conversation. While the better text would be to explain that I will respond as soon as I finish whatever I am working on, I may without thinking send that quick text until I am finished.

Ambiguous Rendezvous

Unfortunately, most budding relationships beyond college and into our twenties begin with text rendezvous. A guy gets your number and then invites you to a party or asks if you want to join him at a bar with friends . . . via text. “Friday, 8 p.m.” “Leaving in ten; see you there.” “Macky’s Bar tomorrow nightinterested?”

This approach can cause confusion for the mature woman wishing to just go on a date already. Is he really interested in something more? Is he just casually inviting you out with friends to be nice? Many of my female friends say that they find themselves wondering how “into it” a guy is when he initiates things over text to hang out in a group.

While this behavior can definitely be categorized as amateur hour, let’s face itsome guys are not so slick when it comes to initiating a relationship with a woman. Fear of rejection is real, and a casual text softens the blow if a woman is not responsive. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give a guy who is a little more unsure a chance.

Despite this being a less-than-perfect start, know that if he is following up with specifics via text, he is interested. If I initiated the text and am being specific about details and a time and place, then I hope to see you there. If a guy shoots you a text to invite you out and doesn’t follow up with specific details, then don’t stress over the guy—you have better things to do that night.

Mr. Chatty

When there is no romantic interest, text messaging usually becomes a practical tool for me. It’s like I am a military radio operator. I get the information I need. I’m in. I’m out. Enough said. So, if I am texting to make conversation or to keep a conversation going, then chances are that I am interested in the girl.

If the conversation and attempted text flirtation continues on for a day or two without any date invitation, then the guy is likely enjoying the banter (maybe a little too much), or he is working up to asking you out. If it goes on for much longer, then perhaps the guy needs, as my friend graciously put it, “a little kick in the pants.”

“The text flirtation probably makes him feel good about himself,” one guy advises. “If this is a new guy, and the flirtation just keeps going, the girl should cut him off and not play into his hand. Better yet, she should find a gentle way to call him out on it and make it clear she’s not into the flirtation by text.”

Something flirtatious and kind but to the point will often do the trick. For instance, if the chitchat-continuing questions keep coming, shoot back something like, “This story would be better in person,” and throw in your favorite winky emoji. He will get the hint. If you want to be a bit more subtle, something like, “Hey, I have to run, but hopefully I will see you again soon. Texting is not really my thing,” and try out that new nerd emoji. (Also, I’ll let you in on a secret: Most guys love emojis.)

The Vanishing Act

This can be a tough one. I know I’ve experienced it before. You are exchanging a few text messages, and then you ask, “Hey, what are your plans Friday night?”

. . .

Umm . . . did he drop his phone in a toilet? Why isn’t he texting back?

I, too, have also been on the flip side of this. Yes, it is plausible that I all of a sudden got busy. But honestly, if someone asks me about my plans, and I do not respond right away, I am probably having a difficult time committing or saying “no, thanks.

It may also be that we have put our phone down or are just buying ourselves a little time so that we can sort out our schedules. Not a good tactic, I know, but a lot of guys choose to disappear rather than communicate. I asked one of my buddies, who just so happens to be infamous for not responding within a reasonable amount of time. “Honestly, I get so inundated with emails and texts and notifications that eventually it just gets to be too much, and I don’t want to look at my phone anymore,” my friend explains. “On the flip side, I know I am not good about planning ahead and committing, so sometimes I just don’t want to answer until I can give a definite yes or no.”

That said, if a guy vanishes from a text conversation, you won’t be left without an explanation too long. If it’s that he was really busy, he will apologize and tell you that he was in the middle of something, and it won’t take him a full day to do so.

At the end of the day, please be patient with us. I know our text messages aren’t always the best. Texting is an imperfect form of communication, so we have to expect confusion on both sides. It is a good tool, but we have to monitor our reactions and check ourselves whenever we feel like jumping to conclusions. Let your gut be your guide, and remember Maria’s wise advice, “If a guy is making you feel absolutely insane, you should step away.” In the end, when it comes to relationships, nothing beats real-life conversation.