If someone is having a really legitimately bad day/week/whatever, and they react to a relatively benign comment with extreme hostility and very hurtful statements directed squarely at you, do you…?
A. Apologize for the benign comment in an attempt to calm the situation and end the conflict, understanding the circumstances; and let the hurtful statements slide, knowing that they really didn’t mean it, but were lashing out in pain and anger that had nothing to do with you or what you said.
B. React moderately to the aggression and the hurtful statements, to try to help them understand that you don’t deserve (and won’t tolerate) that kind of abuse regardless of the circumstances, while apologizing, explaining that the instigating comment was made without malice.
C. React in kind with your own mean retorts and comebacks, maybe even upping the ante a little.
D. Something else (please specify).
On a somewhat related note, how can one encourage another to work on controlling their emotional reactions in a way that cannot be interpreted as implying that said lack of control is an age-related characteristic, even if it may be.