# Name for the need to reply “you can’t fire me, I quit”

It’s a cliché in movies. The boss fires the employee, and they reply “you can’t fire me, because I quit”. Similarly, when in a romantic relationship, one person may decide to end it and the other answers the news with “well, I have been thinking about ending this for some time” (whether true or not).

Both of these replies should be unwarranted and effectively meaningless: the end result is the same. Yet, people often feel this need to “one-up”1 one another. Does this need have a name? And do we have any formal findings (or ongoing research) as to why we have it?

1 Not exactly “one-upping”, since you’re not outdoing the first person — more like preemptively doing what they’re doing, as if life works like a MTG game, and the last thing any of you do is the first to happen.

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Remember when you wanted to do X, and your mother says "do X", and you no longer want to do it? I think it's similar, you don't want to feel as if you are a "loser", or as if you submit to someone. I'm also interested in this cognitive effect and look forward for the detailed answer. –  sindikat Jun 23 at 16:55
Having the last word? –  blz Jun 23 at 18:37
How about "post-empting"? –  Wanderlust Jun 24 at 6:25

I don't know of any term that refers specifically to this sort of counter-offensive reaction to ending a social relationship (be it romantic, professional, or otherwise), but I vaguely recall reading about some theory that distinguished reactions to relational stress as follows: $$\begin{array}{c|c|c|}&\mathbf{Active}&\mathbf{Passive}\\\hline\mathbf{Constructive}&\rm Actively\ constructive&\rm Passively\ constructive\\\hline\mathbf{Destructive}&\rm Actively\ destructive&\rm Passively\ destructive\\\hline\end{array}$$ The reaction in question is actively destructive. A passive alternative would be less decisive / assertive, and either patient / understanding / cooperative (i.e., constructive) or apathetic / pessimistic / negative (i.e., destructive). Sorry I don't have a reference off the top of my head; I think this came from my social psych textbook as an undergrad, but I'm not sure.