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Mixed Signals: Why People Use Them, 23 Signs, Types & How to React to It

Mixed signals are a mess. They can make you feel both exhilarated and exhausted. We’re here to tell you what they are, why they’re used, and how to deal with them!

mixed signals

Are you getting mixed signals from someone you like? Mixed signals can be very frustrating when you feel like you don’t understand what’s happening.

Falling in love with someone is supposed to be a happy feeling, but not when the person you like is blowing hot and cold!

If you can predict the patterns of mixed signals and learn to play along, you’ll realize that a flirty game of mixed signals can be a lot of fun.

Sometimes, however, they’re just a jumbled mess of confusion and conflicting feelings. Whichever way you feel about it, read on to learn how to handle it in any situation![Read: How to text flirt with a friend]

What are mixed signals?

Basically, if someone is sending you mixed signals, you’re probably feeling that the person you like is expressing interest in you while expressing a lack of interest at the same time.

Makes a lot of sense, right?

Communication is the most important thing in any relationship, so when you’re being told one thing but seeing another, you might feel a little crazy. Mixed signals are the bane of any relationship because they leave room for so much error and misinterpretation.

If you feel like someone is showing affection for you one minute and then completely ignoring you the next, you’re probably experiencing a classic case of mixed signals.

After all, if you like someone and they like you, you should consistently show it to one another. If, however, you’re having secret interactions with your eyes or using subtle flirty gestures and then acting as though the other doesn’t exist, you’re playing a game, friend. [Read: 34 obvious flirting signs between a guy and a girl]

Why do people send mixed signals?

It’s easy to think that you’re the problem, but that’s a huge misconception. The reason someone is sending you mixed signals is NOT that something is wrong with you. It’s always an internal issue with oneself that just happens to affect someone else.

Sometimes, it’s not even intentional. It’s just a miscommunication.

Often, however, it’s completely intentional. Occasionally, people are crap, and you’re getting mixed signals from them because they’re really not that committed to a relationship or are trying to keep their options open. [Read: Fear of commitment – 47 signs & ways to get over your phobia]

1. Avoidant attachment style

It can go deeper than just being crappy, though. A person’s attachment style is developed as a child. This is simply to say that our relationships as children have a big impact on our relationships as adults.

Some people, as a result of the relationships they had as a child, develop an avoidant attachment style. This means that they kind of close themselves off from too much intimacy. Their relationships are usually maintained on the surface and don’t go very deep.

This type of person might shy away the second things start to get too serious. They’re not big on strong displays of affection and are known to seek out reasons to end a relationship.

2. Inner conflicts

Mixed signals can be a sign that your love interest is seriously struggling internally.

They might be going through a true psychological battle. They don’t know what’s going on any more than you do. Maybe they want conflicting things, and they don’t quite know how to handle them.

Think about it. How would you behave if you wanted both absolute freedom and open options and complete safety and security in an intimate relationship? Obviously, those things cannot coexist. They’re pretty mutually exclusive ways of life. [Read: Fear of intimacy – the hardships of being afraid of love]

Imagine liking someone so much but feeling like you’re in a dilemma because you don’t feel prepared to be in a relationship. It’s bound to feel like chaos.

If you can look at the mixed signals as a sign that they have a little inner work to do instead of seeing it as a problem with you, you might be able to avoid taking it personally.

How to decipher mixed signals

Trying to decipher mixed signals can feel like you’re trying to wash your hair with mud. It’s not productive and will never yield the results you want.

To their very core, mixed signals are not made to be understood. The only thing you can understand about receiving mixed signals is that the person sending them is likely making an effort to be inconsistent. They haven’t decided that they want to be committed to you. [Read: Is he afraid of commitment? 30 signs he’s scared of a real relationship]

More than trying to figure out how to decipher mixed signals, you need to decide if you even want to.

Inconsistent relationships can lead to a lot of stress, especially if you need the consistency that they’re not providing. That person’s behavior can have a harsh effect on your mental stability and sense of self.

How to read and react to mixed signals

Mixed signals aren’t hard to read. In fact, they’re really simple.

But a flirty game of mixed signals is more insecure and unsteady than regular courtship. If you want to be able to enjoy the mixed signals you’re getting, don’t rush to look for answers. Take your time, and enjoy the game.

1. Play along

This is the first step in trying to end the game of mixed signals in your favor. Do you feel like someone’s stealing glances at you one minute but completely avoiding looking at you the next?

Does the one you like flirt with you like they’re already in love with you one day and then talk to you like just another friend the next morning? [Read: 20 signs of attraction in a conversation]

Don’t pull your hair out thinking about it. Relax! You know something’s up. Just enjoy the game. Look for opportune moments to get flirty and be the one driving them crazy with quick glances.

2. Challenge the game now and then

You’ve been playing at the mercy of this person until now. You flirt when they flirt. You behave like a friend when they behave like a friend.

Don’t be bound by the rules of the mixed signals game! Try to take control of it. The next time this person tries to flirt with you or make eye contact, you ignore them.

That way, you’re letting this person know that you’re not a puppet, and you can play the game too. They may ignore you for a day or two in retaliation, but they’ll start the game again soon.

Playing hard to get works! By taking control and switching gears, they’ll be trying to win your affection for a change. [Read: 32 secrets to play hard to get with a guy & leave him smitten]

3. Avoid outbursts

As frustrating as mixed signals can be, avoid outbursts and confrontations with the person you like.

They may be sending you mixed signals, but you might have no idea if this person actually likes you. By bursting out or forcing an answer out of this person, you’ll end up losing any chance of ever being in a relationship with them.

Just have fun, and enjoy the flirty games.

4. Are you misreading the signs?

As fun as the games can be, you need to ask yourself if you’re misreading the signs. What if this person isn’t even sending any mixed signals? What if you’re just making assumptions? [Read: Signs a guy is really into you]

Don’t let emotions cloud your judgment. If a girl smiles at a guy or talks sweetly with him, the guy may assume she’s sexually interested in him.

On the other hand, if a guy talks sweetly with a girl, the girl may assume he wants to be in a relationship with her. Make sure you’re properly reading the signs, or you may end up looking foolish.

5. Don’t fall for this person just yet

You may already like them, but don’t fall head over heels in love just yet. [Read: Ways to find out if a girl likes you]

The exchanging of mixed signals could just be a silly game to pass the time. You don’t know if this person likes you for sure. And depending on how much you’ve communicated, are you even sure that you really like them? Are they even right for you?

6. Mixed signals are sexual

Mixed signals are mostly sexual, which means that you need to create memories that excite their sexual side.

You know that they sometimes behave like they’re attracted to you, and they sometimes don’t. Use that in your favor. Learn to get closer during the times when they’re warming up to you.

You could discreetly touch them while walking past each other, or you could sit really close to each other. Do anything that gives out the sexual vibe when you’re around them. [Read: How to accidentally kiss a friend and get away with it]

7. Learn from it

Look at their behavior. Why do you think they’re blowing hot and cold? Are they dating someone else? Are they having second thoughts about dating you?

Mixed signals are confusing, but people don’t give out mixed signals just to play around. They give out mixed signals when they’re not sure if they want to date you.

Whenever you’re with each other, try to charm them and make them like you more. Perhaps by making this person like you more, you could eventually date them. [Read: Easy tips to start dating a friend]

8. Don’t tell anyone else about it

Mixed signals are like secret games. You really shouldn’t tell anyone else about it.

If anyone else knows about it, it could come out into the open. If that happens, the person you like has to decide at once whether or not they want to date you.

And when someone’s already giving you mixed signals, they’re probably going to walk away from you at that point. [Read: How to tell someone you love them without losing them]

9. Make a decision

Once you’ve started charming the person you like, hope for the best. You can try to turn the mixed signals into romance, just have fun, or forget all about it.

There may be too many reasons why you’re getting mixed signals from this person. They may already be dating someone else or interested in someone else. Maybe they don’t think you’re good enough to date, or their friends don’t approve of you.

If this person starts warming up to you and stops giving out mixed signals, good for you. On the other hand, if it’s not working out in your favor, forget about it instead.

Chances are that once you forget all about it, this person will want your attention and may start trailing you again! [Read: Subtle eye contact flirting tips that always work]

10. The final confrontation

When you do decide that you’ve had enough and it’s time to confront the one who’s giving you mixed signals, it almost always never ends well.

They could just deny it, and there’s not a thing you can do. If this person has been playing games with you for a long time, and you just can’t take it anymore, perhaps it’s time for confrontation.

Confront this person only if the mixed signals are overly obvious or it’s affecting your mind and your sanity. The best thing to do, however, is to just walk away and start ignoring this person if they don’t reciprocate your feelings.

Types of mixed signals

Mixed signals are consistently troublesome all across the board. They’re universally flawed and really good at toying with emotions. [Read: A guy’s ultimate game plan for handling mixed signals]

The type of mixed signals you receive, however, will vary depending on what type of relationship you’re dealing with. The mixed signals you receive from an ex will not be the same mixed signals you receive from someone that you’re just getting interested in.

1. Mixed signals without a relationship or label

Maybe you haven’t started officially dating someone yet, but you’ve definitely shared a mutual interest in each other.

You’re in the early stages of flirting, which is often the time that mixed signals rage rampant. Maybe they even want to act like you’re dating but refuse to label it as such. That, in itself, is a giant mixed signal!

a. They flirt with someone else

Watching someone whom you’re interested in flirt with someone else is a slap in the face and is wildly confusing. [Read: How to deal with a guy who is sending mixed signals]

If you’re on a date at a restaurant and they flirt with the waiter/waitress, what are you supposed to do?

b. They expect you to open up to them, but they don’t open up to you

They want an emotional connection as long as they’re not the one having to provide the information to receive it!

A certain level of vulnerability is anticipated in any kind of relationship, but when you’re the one doing all the hard talking, it can be a big mixed signal.

c. You haven’t had the “defining the relationship” talk

Labeling the relationship has been skirted around for what feels like forever. When you ask about it, you get weird or noncommital responses.

If they’re acting like your partner so much so that you think it’s time to have that conversation, but they just can’t or won’t do it, it kind of sounds like they’re just stringing you along. [Read: Define the relationship – 30 signs its time & how to talk about it]

d. They show affection when you’re alone but not in public

Not being a big fan of public displays of affection is one thing. It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but it’s an entirely different thing when they basically act like they don’t want to be anywhere near you in a public setting.

If you have a movie night at your house, it’s all cuddles and kisses. When you go out to a movie with a pair of friends, though, they literally sit two seats down and don’t even really acknowledge you.

2. Mixed signals in a new relationship

New relationships are supposed to be filled with curiosity and flirty fun, but since you’re just getting to know the ins and outs of your partner’s inner workings, it can also be chock full of mixed signals.

Communication is key in new relationships, and it takes some time to master knowing how you communicate with one another, which means it’s super easy to send and receive mixed signals.

a. You talk often but never make plans to hang out

Let’s say you meet someone at a club. You hit it off really well and exchanged numbers. Days of flirtatious texting turns into weeks, but you still haven’t managed to make any plans together.

When you bring up the idea, it’s deflected and turned back to flirty texts. It’s confusing! [Read: Breadcrumbing – what it is, 28 signs of it, & why people do it]

b. They’re inconsistent and unavailable

Maybe you do manage to convince them to hang out. It finally happens, and you feel reassured by your time together. The flirty texts resume, and you try to secure another date but are given excuses or are ignored.

c. They say they want a deeper emotional connection, but they never really go deeper

It seems like they want to know a lot about you, but they don’t want you to know a lot about them.

They claim that they want a deeper connection with you but aren’t willing to put in the work themselves. They might get you in a vulnerable position, but when it’s their turn, they suddenly have to go. [Read: Guys who ghost and come back – how to handle the zombies of dating]

d. They’re only there when it’s convenient for them

Maybe they say that they’re there for you whenever you need them but don’t show up when times get tough. Instead, it seems more like you are always the one showing up when they need help or company.

e. They frequently have drastic behavior changes

This is one of the most detrimental mixed signals. Imagine that you had a great date, texted for a while after, and went to sleep happy with how everything went.

You wake up and text them, and you either hear nothing for a couple of days or are met with cold, short responses. After another day or two, you’re back to constant flirtation! It’s overwhelming. [Read: Blowing hot & cold – the stages & how to deal]

3. Mixed signals with an ex

Mixed signals with an ex can be the most confusing, especially if the relationship ended with both of you choosing to remain friends. That can lay the ground for a lot of misinterpretation!

a. They reach out with no intention of getting back together

It’s possible to be really confused by remaining on good terms with your ex.

If you still keep in contact after the breakup and see each other almost as much as you did during the relationship, it can make it really hard to move on for one or both of you.

It’s difficult to move from a relationship to a friendship and completely change your behavior, which can send a lot of mixed signals.

b. They act like they’ve moved on, but they interfere with your new relationships

They say they don’t want to be with you and are okay with you moving on, but they have something snarky to say about every date you go on! [Read: 25 tips to end a relationship without making it messy]

What they’re saying doesn’t match how they’re acting, and it really seems like they don’t want you to be with anybody else even though they don’t want to be with you.

c. You’re still having sex after the breakup

Just don’t. Trying to keep a friends-with-benefits thing going is far worse than trying to be just friends.

Sex is way more emotional than some people give it credit for, and this particular act could really screw up the moving-on process.

It’s even worse if one of you still has even an inkling of feelings left for the other because it sends out a lot of false hope. [Read: The good and bad of being friends with an ex – your helpful guide]

d. You remain connected on social media but not in real life

Do they constantly like or comment on your social media posts and photos but act like you don’t exist when you’re in each other’s company?

If that’s not a mixed signal, what the heck is?

How to confront someone about mixed signals

If you decide that you’ve had enough of being confused about where you stand in this person’s life and are ready to confront them, it’s important to go about it in the right way. [Read: How to confront someone when you loathe uncomfortable interactions]

You always want to be as direct as you can be and say what you feel, but you should make sure that you’re not pointing fingers.

Try to have a blameless conversation by just letting them know how you feel. Simply saying, “I feel like I’ve been getting some mixed signals from you, and I just want to make sure we’re on the same page,” is good enough to get the ball rolling.

Let them know that you’re interested in them, but you don’t want to continue flirting and carrying on with them if they don’t feel the same.

Should you stop dating someone who’s giving you mixed signals?

The answer to this question really has more to do with how you feel.

Are you feeling emotionally drained or exhausted? Do you spend too much time trying to figure out what the heck these mixed signals mean? Is it taking a toll on you and affecting your everyday living? Is it just driving you crazy? [Read: 42 red flags & signs it’s time to end your relationship & move on for good]

If any of those are the case, you definitely might want to consider backing away from that relationship. Continuing to put your time and effort into somebody who only returns the favor at their convenience is just asking for hurt feelings.

If they aren’t able to give you what you need out of a relationship, you’ll be better off backing out now.

On the other hand, if you’re having just as much flirty fun as they are and it’s not doing negative things to your mental health, keep on playing! [Read: Signs to know if both of you are just friends or more than friends]

Mixed signals are an absolute chore! Now that you know what they mean, you can decide if you’re ready to keep playing the game or put it to rest.

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...