A friend of mine recently told me about her first interaction with her current husband:
“I love your big beautiful brown cow eyes.”
Meant as a compliment. Unfortunately received as, I’m a big fat cow.
My friend’s brain latched onto the big-ness and the cow-ness of the sentiment, and used her self-conscious beliefs about her own body to fill in the rest.
Her husband couldn’t have know what she would hear. But he probably could have chosen his words more wisely.
There is always a risk of being misheard or misunderstood. The best we can do is to be precise with our speech and ensure we were heard correctly.
Somehow my friend fell in love and married the guy. So clearly, we’re allowed to screw up some of the time.