Would You Sign This?

November 6, 2013

“Sign this please. Right there. Yeah, there, on the last line. Next to the date.”

How many times have you heard this? Ten? Twenty? Eighteen Hundred Fifty Three?

Have you always signed?

What did you get for doing so? That “what you got” is, in legal terms, the consideration for your promise. It’s one of the required elements of a contract. Required in the sense of making it enforceable. No consideration, no contract.

Of course, not all of those pieces of paper shoved in front of you were contracts. Like that traffic ticket. But don’t focus on that because this is not a law school class and this is not really about the legal enforceability of contacts.

Think about this as an English lesson. I want you to remember that, for you, your career, and your business, the word consideration starts with a “Why?”

As in, “why should I sign it?” What are you getting in return?

Think about this as a negotiation lesson.

The hospital administrator presents a letter to you reading that despite the scope of your exclusive contract, Dr. X will be allowed to practice in the department.

Or, the founder of a venture that you’re an owner of asks you to sign an investment-related form dated five years previous, just prior to the date of your investment.

Or, you’ve agreed on a price, but the other side now adds a new provision. What do you get in return?

Yes, you caught me. This is really about mindset, your mindset in negotiating. In realizing that many situations are negotiations.

You don’t always have to get something back, but at least think, for a moment, of what you are getting in return before you sign, or before you tell yourself that you already agreed on price so that some additional issue is just another point that they’re extracting.

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