I was reading an article from Lifehacker this morning (it is no longer available). They carried out some experiments to understand how well consumers actually understood the smartphone contracts they had agreed to – and which I am sure many of us – if not all – have also agreed to. They found that everybody – including the consumers themselves – tended to overestimate their ability to comprehend the details of the agreement, despite being willing to be legally bound by it.
Do you read contracts?
This then reminded me of a coach/friend who approached me last year regarding a quote for contracts, but who then said she wouldn’t go ahead because hadn’t budgeted for them (despite it being a big event). Her reasoning was that “contracts are not really that important – no-one reads them anyway.”
I later heard her complaining of difficulties she ran into when the venue failed to supply elements that she had expected because they “weren’t in the contract” she had agreed to (most likely without reading it). I politely refrained from saying “I told you so!”
After all, I can be guilty of this too – I am in a hurry, I want the software update, or the purchase to go through, so I click “I agree” on the T&C without stopping to read them – accepting that I am damned if I do, damned if I don’t – I want the thing, therefore I am stuck with their terms.
It is no surprise that we don’t bother to read further – particularly since the Lifehacker research suggests we may not actually comprehend what we are agreeing to even if we did read it carefully.
This is where I get ranty!
For me, this reinforces the absolute importance of continuing to develop a new paradigm of contracts adapted to our needs as business women and men of the new paradigm, a paradigm based on clarity and connection, caring rather than competition.
Contract terms should be written as clearly as possible and in the language and tone that the parties (the people agreeing to the relationship) actually use. Terms (like parties) should be defined in a way that is easily accessible.
Above all, everyone involved needs to know that they have the right – and a duty – to question, negotiate, seek further advice, discuss and continue to explore the contract until they are comfortable with their understanding of – and willing to agree to – every word it contains.
A contract that cares is a living, loving document – but as my coach/friend demonstrates it can be difficult to understand what that means in a world where we still need to navigate through disempowering barbed-wire fence contracts to conduct our daily lives.
How I can help
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