"There's a girl I like... I've told her that I like her, and she's said that she's not interested in dating. But now I'm getting mixed signals, and she's more affectionate than ever before. Aaagh. What do I do?"
On the surface, the behavior of people can be downright mystifying. It may seem illogical, erratic, even downright random. For us men, this appears doubly true when we're watching the behavior of women.
But whenever you face a mystery like this, there is an explanation hiding behind it.
If you seek to understand something better, learn as much as you can about its underlying design. You will be surprised what you learn, and how much more understandable the outward behavior is.
How Does the Human Mind Work?
From a practical, functional standpoint, you can think of the human mind as operating on three separate levels, simultaneously-
- The reptilian brain, which is concerned with survival. It provides basic survival mechanisms, such as hunger, fear, and your fight-flight-freeze threat response. It's also responsible for survival of the species, and therefore your sexual & reproductive instincts.
- The mammalian brain, which is concerned with social connection, family relationships and pair-bonding. It wants you to be liked by others. It fears rejection. It clings to those nearest
- And the human brain, which is concerned with predicting the future, understanding the past, core values, self-actualization, core values, and more.
According to the Triune Brain theory, these three brains all still exist separately as part of your brain, and function independently of each other.
And... all three are "talking" to you at the same time.
In most cases, this is what "Cognitive Dissonance" is all about.
Cognitive dissonance is when you feel conflicted about your thinking. However in most cases, I find that, it's often not a conflict of thoughts exactly, but a conflict of thoughts v. feelings.
That's why, for example...
- You can be on a strict diet ( human brain goals ), and still struggle with wanting pizza ( reptile brain desires ) - especially when you're out with friends ( mammal brain social approval desires ).
- You can want to start a business ( human brain goals ), but be afraid of quitting your job to make that a reality ( reptile brain wants security ) - especially if other people think you will fail ( mammal brain social approval desires ).
- You can want to go to the gym ( human brain goals ), but feel lazy ( reptile brain wants to conserve energy for survival ).
Different parts of your brain are programmed to pursue different goals, and therefore in any given situation, you're likely to experience conflict and confusion if those different brains have conflicting drives.
So Why Is She Behaving This Way?
Understanding this will help you see why the girl you like is giving you mixed signals.
You're getting mixed signals because you're interacting with 3 different versions of this girl at any given time.
- She has a reptile mind which feels fear & desire.
- She has a mammal mind which seeks social connection, emotional intimacy, your approval and the approval of others. Also, security, whatever that means to her.
- And she has a human rational mind that imagines her future, and interprets her past. It analyzes the expectations of society, predicts what her family & friends expect of her, and so on.
These three brains all come to conclusions that are so different, that it's like dating 3 different women.
She can't tell you or show you what she wants, because she can't decide what she wants yet.
And you'll find that most people are like this, most of the time.
If you asked her the questions...
"What do you want?"
"What is our relationship?"
"Where are we headed?"
It's unlikely that she could answer, because she doesn't yet know herself.
The 3 minds are arguing, watching, learning, processing, and that takes time. Give her that time.
Chances are that she's not playing you. She's not teasing you. She's just trying to figure things out for herself.
When you see that reality clearly, and understand what's happening in her mind(s), it should relax you a lot.
Useful Things to Be Aware Of...
Usually One Mind is in the Driver's Seat at a Time
I notice that at any given moment, behavior seems to be driven by one of the 3 brains at a time.
We've all seen women who are fully rational some times- discussing work, future, politics, nutrition, philosophy and life goals. Then at other times that same woman is fully mammal-brain, where she wants emotional connection, closeness, cuddles, protectiveness, social time. At still other times that exact same woman can be fully reptile brain- deeply sexual and voraciously hungry for physical connection.
Expect this. Learn to recognize how how to interact with each of these 3 facets individually.
The transitions can be sudden too.
Have you ever seen a woman with hot-and-cold behavior? At any given moment, different versions of her will come to the front, and it will happen suddenly.
Women, Sex & Relationships
Many of us Nice Guys were taught to believe that women don't want sex, or that they would never want sex outside of a relationship.
Certainly, for some women, either, or both of these could be true. But just as certainly, it's not a rule, and if you treat it as a rule, you'll often create more problems than you're solving by connecting sex and relationships together.
Now that you understand more about the three minds, you can see what that is.
If you tell a woman that you find her attractive, and that you are interested in physical intimacy with her, than really you're asking her reptile mind to cast its yes/no vote. If she finds you attractive and she has no direct objections from her mammal or human minds, she'll likely be interested.
If however, you tell a woman that you find her attractive, and that you want a relationship with her... you've asked an entirely different question.
Now, all three brains have to say YES, and things get complicated fast;
- Do I find this guy attractive, and would I be interested in sex with him?
- Do I like this guy as a person, would I want to spend lots and lots of time with him?
- Do I think this guy has future potential?
- Would my family, and my friends approve?
- Do I even have space for a relationship in my life right now?
- Is there anyone else, that I'm holding out for, in the possible-relationship department?
I've misunderstood this dynamic too many times to count, and seen women frozen in indecision, forever, unable to make a choice...
My advice is, keep it simple. Be 100% honest. Be 100% vulnerable.
If you find her physically attractive, start by expressing that. Invite her on a date. Offer to hold her hand. Go in for a kiss. She'll let you know whether or not she wants to be physically intimate- all you have to do is enjoy her company, and respect whatever she decides, moment by moment, in response to your lead.
If that happens for you great, and it's a connection that you can build on top of. From there, you can explore much more about each other, enjoy each other's company, consider a future together. Who knows?
But if you try to form a friendship first, build trust, invest heavily, and then suddenly "convert" the relationship into a romance - then you're likely to massively confuse her, create a lot of awkwardness - and create a very uncomfortable & needy situation for yourself.
Don't hide any feelings, desires or intentions from her.
You're both better off knowing up front what's between you. Simply communicate it clearly, and both of you can decide where you want to go from there.
At the very least you'll get to be courageous, and give her the gift of your honest, heartfelt appreciation.
Remember, We're All Like This
Every one of us has this Triune Brain design - including you - we're just not objectively aware of it.
If you've ever been in a sudden rage, then you've experienced this sudden and dramatic shift yourself... fully human-rational one moment, and then fully reptilian-emotional the next moment, at the flick of a switch.
Welcome to being human. Hang on and enjoy the ride.
It's crazy fun.
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The Triune Brain model is not considered a scientifically provable physical model of the brain- however from a functional perspective, I find that it provides a very reliable model for understanding human behavior.
Reptile - dopamine, cortisol
Mammal - oxytocin, serotonin, testosterone, estrogen
Human - rational thought
I often forget how much my perception of people & behaviors has changed. Every unusual, unexpected behavior I see now, I immediately ask "why?" because 499/500 times there's something behind it that I can't see and that I don't know. The other 1/500 times they're just deeply broken, and will never make sense to me, but that's surprisingly rare so far.