My high school was not on the good side of town. We were not an athletic powerhouse, nor did I see a lot of luxury cars in the school parking lot. What I did see was a lot of low-level drug use and a bunch of losers who thought they’d lift themselves higher by putting other people down.
This was an… interesting environment for short skinny kid with glasses* to grow up in, and I soon learned that something other than fisticuffs was my key to survival in that environment. I learned to avoid the people who wanted to push others around, and when avoidance was impossible, I found that a little bit of humor and some quick thinking** prevented a beat down.
I figured out early on how to avoid the monkey dance, but in case you didn’t have the same (painful) experience growing up, Greg Ellifritz has a great article on why de-escalation is so important and he gives some excellent examples of soft words that turn away anger.
* Yes, I was a wimp growing up, and now I’m into guns. Figured that one out all by yourself, did ya, Sigmund?
** Never tell the starting left tackle on the football team that he should call himself a necrophiliac because that meant he loved to kill things. TRUST me on this.