How to know what they mean versus what they say?

Impossible! Women are just wired in a way that they beat around the bush when they say something because they are trying to control the possible response you might give them. They don’t want the wrong things to be said by you so they try to phrase their conversation in a way the leads to the best possible response from you. The more you make them comfortable with talking to you the better it can get, but they use a different side of the brain than you.