Self Defense/Changing the thought flow
I have thought about this thing. Please bear with me because I'm treading on unknown (for me) territory.
Whenever we do something, we do it because we feel that we should do it because of our emotional state (especially the impulsive ones).
We receive stimuli from: external medium and internal medium.
As a consequence we produce thoughts, which can be conscious (we realize we are thinking and what) or unconscious.
As a consequence of thoughts we produce emotions, again, whether we notice it or not and we than produce an action, or a plan to act followed by an action.
Usually with rationalization of that act (because we can't face the fact that we are instinctual and emotional in essence, I think).
There's a stimulus, a train of thoughts, one forming from eachother and emotions forming from each thought, feeding on eachother, turning into inner stimuli which create thoughts which create emotions, until we build ourselves into a certain powerful emotional state, either joy, sadness, anger, etc.
So, how could someone affect the train of thoughts, of another person, from the outside, so that it would go on another path?
Example: when someone is building himself into a rage state because of an untrue rumor that he heard about us, a rumor about an event that actually didn't happen in the way he was led to think it did. How do we change the his train of thoughts so that he won't become angrier and angrier until he lashes at us?
PS: let's assume that apologising at that point = admiting our guilt and therefore his right to punish us in a ... physical way.
I nearly clicked 'this question is too long and complex.' On the surface it seems like a simple question, but it involves about five different fields. Then it paints a scenario filled with 'it depends,' unknown factors and variables.
First ALL communication is manipulation.
Not judgmental or Machiavellian. We communicate to manipulate. To get people to change their behavior, adjust their emotional state, teach, explain and countless other functional reasons. Reasons that influence, guide and control our environment and achieve our wants and needs.
Generally, the better you are at communicating, the more effective you will be in the day to day.
Second, who you are, what value you have to the group and what other behaviors you've displayed in the past strongly influence how people interact with you.
Do you know the person? Do you have a history of trust with the person? A history of dislike and animosity? Do you have the 'gravitus' to influence the person?
I can walk up to people I know and with a quick and quiet word end the danger of violence. But that is because that person trusts me to act in his best interest. I have a much better chance of success because of our relationship and my previous behaviors. Also after putting a halt to the potential for violence, I have to shift gears and engage in other, soothing and 'fixing' behaviors.
With a stranger, or someone I only slightly know, those tactics change. They change in subtle ways. These are not simple tricks. They are not a check list of "Do A,B,C and D. Unless you have a foundational understanding (from those other fields I mentioned), the explanations won't make sense. In fact, they're too easy to misinterpret and misapply. So instead of deescallating the situation, they'll accelerate it.
I have a saying, "Words have power -- but only if someone is listening."
You're question about what to say is meaningless until you first develop the credibility and skills to get people to listen to you.
People skills, communication, trust, start building those in your daily life. These rudimentary skills must be in place before you can effectively tackle high level situations that will explode into violence if you mishandle them.