Yesterday I was walking down the street with Elli on my shoulders and a dog ahead of us started barking at me. It jumped towards me as far as its leash would allow and made quite a scene. The owners of the dog were really apologetic, trying to pull it away and giving me excuses (He's just a puppy, sorry!) and continually looking at me like I was going to freak out on them on the basis of their dog's behaviour. I figured the dog was probably just unused to a freaky 7 foot tall double human and walked up to it, squatted down and held out my hand for it to sniff my palm. It sniffed for a few seconds, calmed down and then I gave it a pat on the head and we wandered away. Simple, but I see so many people not grasp that fundamental mechanic when dealing with a dog or a human.
Just give them a reason to think you are safe! If you meet a big scary man in a leather jacket with tattooes and a bowie knife on his hip and he stares at you, acts very tense and refuses to get close you have every reason to be worried but if he walks up to you calmly, sticks out his hand and says "Good day, my name is Brad, how are you?" you will almost certainly calm right down. Brad is the same guy but his attitude will hugely influence the way you act even if you are totally unaware of it. Just a hint: To other people or dogs *you* are Brad. You can decide how they react! This stuff obviously isn't new as any good sales manual or psychologist would tell you but it is something that people so often seem to forget. Those folks who were afraid and panicked about my reaction just needed to stay calm and say "Sorry, the dog is still young and excitable" and firmly drag the dog away. Their fear was making things worse for the dog and might have affected me if I wasn't so used to that situation.
The world could really benefit from giving people at large some sales training. If we were all better at figuring out what other people want and finding pleasant ways to keep conversations productive and civil we would waste a lot less time and energy being mad or afraid for no reason.