About once a month, some dude somewhere will try to engage me in a physical fight. On the street, in a bar, during pick-up sports, there is always someone looking to escalate the situation. As a grown-up, it is my responsibility (and yours too) to ensure that these interactions do not reach the point of physical violence.
Similar to how being catcalled is widely experienced by people who are not men, the phenomenon of getting sporadically challenged to brawls is typically a “by men for men” kind of situation. It starts when we are young and on the playground, playing sports, or in the locker room – and sadly, many men never outgrow this warrior/tough-guy mentality. Remember this when you raise your own kids and are deciding whether to say, “Boys will be boys!” when they get into their first fight.
To understand why people are willing to fight, we must examine the two types of aggression that we encounter in the world. First, there is reactive aggression – something happens that triggers you, and you get mad in reaction to that stimulus. Perhaps someone fouls you or cheats on you, and now you feel your anger boiling over.
The second type is proactive aggression – the aggressors initiate this aggression themselves without any apparent prompting. It is often born out of fear (e.g. “I’ll get them before they can get me”), but it presents outwardly as picking a fight.
When you find yourself facing either form of aggression, your main job (if your goal is to preserve everyone’s safety) is to de-escalate the situation. Apologize, walk-away, or otherwise avoid the threat as appropriate. It does not matter who started it, and nobody’s honor is at stake. Fistfights and adults do not belong in the same space, and it is time that we as men begin to acknowledge that.