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Baffled by what women are getting at half the time you talk to them? Then keep this translation manual handy to decode her most misunderstood lines.

By Amy Spencer
f you've ever spoken to a woman, it's fair to say you've been confused by one. Yes doesn't always mean yes, no doesn't always mean no, and most of us have once in our lives even admitted, "Well, I may have said that, but I didn't mean it." What's with all the mixed messages? "Women communicate by giving subtle suggestions instead of being literal, so we can check for positive reinforcement before we continue. We want to be careful about the impact we have on the other person," explains Sharyn Wolf, CSW, a psychotherapist in New York City. But while figuring out what women really want can be difficult, it's not impossible. So follow this guide to girl-speak. These are some of the things you might hear a woman say as you meet, date and woo her—and the code for reading between the lines.

What she says: "You're really sweet, but I have a boyfriend."
What she means: "You're really sweet, but I definitely don't want to date you."
Why she says it: It's a classic barstool scene: You see her sitting by herself and figure it's as good a time as any to make a move. And it's all going so well—she's smiling, she's answering your questions—until she drops the bomb that she has a boyfriend. Now, she may be telling the truth. But more likely this "boyfriend" is merely a ploy to get you to back off fast. "I use that line all the time, it really works without hurting a guy's feelings too much," says Claire McKimmie. "It shows immediately that there's nothing more to say."

What she says: "Why don't I take your number and I'll call you?"
What she means: "There's no way I'm giving you my number so why don't I take yours?"
Why she says it: Even in this day and age, most women like to be pursued, so if we really like you, we'll happily hand over our digits and wait for you to call. Pretty much the only time we'll ask for your number is—sorry—when we want to keep the ball in our court and, well, never see you again. Other not-so-great responses: "Why don't you e-mail me instead," "You can get my number through our mutual friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend Marcy" or "I'm in the phone book." Trust us, if she likes you, she'll make it easy for you to call.

What she says: "Oh, sorry, I already have weekend plans."
What she means: "I don't necessarily have weekend plans, but you're calling so last-minute, I'd feel like a loser if I admitted I was free and took you up on your offer."
Why she says it: As much as we all say that The Rules is an outdated tome that brews trouble between the sexes, there are still some things we can't let go of. And one of them is that we don't want to accept plans with you last-minute, because we don't want you to think we're that easy to catch. "If a guy waits until Friday to ask me out on Saturday, I'll probably say no," says Claire Arnaud. "He has to work for it. And if he doesn't have the patience to call back next week, too bad, that's his loss."

What she says: "This feels good, but we really shouldn't."
What she means: "I want you, bad, but don't want to get burned."
Why she says it: The night is winding down, and it's time to decide whether she should hold 'em, fold 'em, or hop in the sack with you. So if your date isn't telling you a flat-out "No," "I don't want to," or "I don't like you that way," chances are she really does like you—and want you—that way. She'd just rather wait a few weeks or months until she knows you're not a love-'em-and-leave-'em type. "It's possible she's been in the position before of sleeping with a man and wanting to hear from him and then not hearing from him—and she doesn't want to make that mistake again," says Wolf. So if you're a guy who really does want the relationship to go further (be honest now), it's worth telling her so to see if she'll change her mind.

What she says: "So, what have you been up to?"
What she means: "Why haven't you called me? Are you seeing someone else?"
Why she says it: If we haven't talked to you in a few weeks and then you suddenly start calling again, all we want to know is, What the heck took you so long? But because we want you to think we're laid-back "Hey, whatever" women, all we dare squeeze out is a general inquiry. "I don't want him to know I care," says Emilie Giroud Capet. Our biggest fear? That you've been calling other women instead of us. Whether that's the case or not, you're best off filling in your missing weeks with very un-sexy things. "I'm hoping he'll tell me he's been working really hard," says Emilie, "or better, that he's been really sick."

What she says: "If you want to have a guy's night, go ahead, fine."
What she means: "I really, really don't want you to go. And if you do, I'm going to be pissed."
Why she says it: It seemed innocuous enough: You asked her if she'd mind rescheduling your romantic night in so you could go out with the guys. She's given you the green light. So what's the red flag in that statement? The word "fine." See, when a woman says something is fine, it's decidedly not. "A woman will say it's fine for him to go without her because she doesn't want to get in a fight about it, even though deep down, she doesn't want him to go without her," says Wolf. Another phrase women often use to clue you into their displeasure: "If you like." As in, "Sure, you can go out with the guys tonight, if you like." That's a pretty clear sign that while you may like it, she sure won't. Either way, feel free to play dumb and go out with your buddies—just be ready to accept the consequences when you return.

What she says: "So, tell me about Diane."
What she means: "Should I be threatened by Diane?"
Why she says it: When a man brings up another female's name in the midst of a story, a woman's internal panic button is pressed—she fears that you're talking about her because you're secretly attracted to her. So until you make it clear you wouldn't touch Diane with a ten-foot pole, our insecurities will lead us to assume she's a wasp-waisted blonde who laughs at your jokes—and you'd love to take her to bed. So if Diane is attractive and bed-able, please don't say, "She's really cool." Instead try, "Diane's just someone I work with. Boy, she can be annoying sometimes. Some guys at the office have the hots for her but I don't get it; she's not all that."

What she says: "I love the way you smell."
What she means: "I love you, but I don't dare tell you I love you before you tell me you love me."
Why she says it: "I just told the guy I've been dating for three weeks that I loved the way he smelled," says Lili De Monseignat, "but it's more him that I love than his smell." Then why hold back? Because women know that telling a guy we love him before he tells us could be too much for him to handle. "It's too soon to tell him I love him, because he'll freak out and run away!" says Lili. But if you want to be loved, perk your ears up for the word itself. "I love your dog," "I love your apartment," "I love the way you dress," and "I love that you love Indian food" are all signs that something big is bubbling underneath that little heart of hers. In other words, gentlemen, please be gentle.

Amy Spencer writes for Glamour, Cosmopolitan and Real Simple, among other publications, and currently doles out relationship advice to men every week on Sirius Radio's Maxim channel.

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