Did you go to Oak Park HS? I had an American History teacher like yours, but he wasn't a vet to the best of my knowledge.
When the fewmets hit the windmill, it's too late to start thinking about what to say, agreed.
It's the "woofing" stage that needs to be defused - before he takes off his coat. (Of course, AS he takes off his coat, his arms are somewhat restrained, giving an opening for a good pre-emptive strike or twelve.
The hard part for many people, myself included, is NOT to buy into the escalation game, but to work outside of the framework the person facing me has put up.
In NLP and hypnotherapy, we call these techniques "pattern interrupts." They are actions that are unexpected and often interrupt some action that most people do not consider has a middle part, like shaking hands with the wrong hand. It causes many people to do a physical stutter, trying to figure out how to properly respond.
Oftentimes these techniques can be very effective in derailing a confrontation. By causing the initiator to go into intense search mode, a simple statement or suggestion can slip by his defenses and lower the antagonism factor, greatly.
Offerning the wrong hand for a handshake, stopping just as he touches yours, withdrawing it and saying "Sorry," while offering your right hand can really throw someone's psyche into a loop.
There are others as well. More to follow.
Keep 'em coming!
Lee Darrow, C.Ht.