I was asked to address the idea of talking down an aggressor.
My take may not be the same advice you get elsewhere, but here it is.
If we are talking about conflict engaged in by mutually willing people, then there is no talking things down. If two people want to fight, or if they both are servants of the inner monkey, things are going physical unless outside people intervene and stop them.
So, that one is futile.
If we are talking about an assault, talking them out of committing the crime is also a waste of time. The time to prevent them from attacking is during the interview stage, where they have not yet decided that you are the target of choice. Once they have zeroed in on you, the assault is going to happen, unless your fighting abilities hurt him bad enough to make him reconsider. This will take some skill and a lot of luck. Luck is not a good plan.
So, another waste of time.
Are we talking about an argument with a spouse or coworker? These tend to be emotionally charged. When both people are emotionally agitated, things will not be rational, and so reason is probably not going to make the point and win the day in the way you might hope.
I don’t want this to seem to doom-and-gloom.
There is a time and place for certain strategies. Talking down, deescalation, defuse, whatever term you want to apply – they are valuable, but timing is essential.
Generally speaking, the earlier you begin to tone down the inflammatory comments (you might consider them witty when you are the one making them), the better the outcome will be. And you must keep in mind that you only have a limited number of opportunities to get things right before you either need to catch a gear and leave or brace yourself for the attack.
Apply the deescalation strategies early.
Regarding assault, a very different critter from fighting, you need awareness first and foremost. You cannot deescalate the resource predator. You have to rely on not looking like a victim. Project an awareness that tells people that you know what is going on. Be aware of the signals you are sending out, but be aware of the signals they are sending out as well.
There is no one-size-fits-all answer. You have to know your situation and be able to use your best judgement to handle it like a grown up. But the timing of your strategy has to be right, and well placed.