Several years ago I read in the online news ‘’Man who created own credit card sues the bank for not sticking to terms’’. The header attracted me to open this article and read the story. The story was about a man who received a letter offering him a credit card from a specific bank, but he found the rates, not to his liking. So instead of throwing away the letter with the contract and forget about the whole topic, he decided to do something different. He scanned the contract into his computer, changed the terms and conditions, wrote the terms that he wants, signed it, and returned it to the bank.
When the bank employee received the signed contract, he approved it without checking what’s written on it. Later on, when the employee discovered that he/the bank accepted the terms and conditions of the customer, the bank rejected to fulfill them. And now the man is suing the bank for not keeping the agreed terms and conditions (if you want to read the full story and know which terms and conditions did this guy include, press here ).
Now, you can read this story and just laugh, judge the man and think that what he did was not correct, or even feel happy that finally, the bank found someone who played with them the same ‘’terms and conditions’’ game. However, when I read this article, I found myself looking at it from a different perspective.
Do you remember a life situation where you accepted almost all the other party’s terms and conditions? And if yes, why did you agree without negotiating to reach a win-win situation? Imagine with me now a life where you can apply your terms and conditions even in the hardest situations. How would this life look like?
When I read this story in 2013, I started asking myself hundreds of ‘’whys’’ such as: Why aren’t we applying our terms and conditions in a lot of areas in our lives?
Why when we go to a bank, download a program from the internet, attend a job interview…etc., do we usually accept the other party’s terms and conditions almost blindly without trying to reach a REAL win-win situation, as if we are just happy that this other party ‘’accepted us’’ and as if we are running to finish the deal as fast as possible? Isn’t the Bank, the Employer, or the Company which is offering the program for download, dependent on the customer or employee to win and most important to survive? If yes, then why it’s always one side putting the rules of the game?
Why as an example, when you receive an employment contract, you rarely negotiate the 5-6 pages or so of ‘’terms and conditions’’ and the only thing that you try to re-negotiate is your salary if you did not like it? Is it because sometimes we enter these discussions with thoughts in the back of our heads that we are in the weaker bargaining position? Or maybe because we do not care except for the money? Or are there other reasons? And if we feel that we are in the weaker bargaining position, then why do we have that feeling? I kept thinking for a long time about answers until I found mainly three possible reasons.
The first apparent reason is that we sometimes feel lazy to go through all of the terms and conditions, so we take the easy shortcut and accept them directly while ‘’expecting’’ the other party’s good intentions (which later can get us in serious problems).
The second reason is that sometimes we ‘’feel’’ that they are fixed terms and conditions which mean that they are impossible to be changed. It’s exactly like when you go to a supermarket or an electronics store and find a price tag on a product that you want to buy so you do not negotiate its price only because you get the impression that it’s a fixed price that can never be changed. While on the other hand, if you buy the same product in another place without a price tag over it, then you might negotiate.
Finally, the third reason- which I believe is the major one- is that we feel that we are in a weaker bargaining position because sometimes we do not know or understand our self-worth. So we try to accept the majority of the terms and conditions implied by the other party because we believe that he is doing us a ‘’favor’’ and that we do not really ‘’deserve’’ it, and that we have to accept the terms or else the other party will change his mind, and we will lose the opportunity.
Take this example, when you find a job advertisement on any web-portal, you see potential employers putting almost 8-10 requirements that they are searching for within potential candidates. When you go through these requirements you feel that all the employers are trying to search for a super ideal candidate (only on paper) or, in other words, they are searching for a superman. And you will also find that some of these requirements are almost standard in most of the job advertisements.
Later on if you applied for the position- and after a long process of interviews where they are trying to make sure that you possess the majority of the 8-10 requirements of the job- and if they discover that you are the best fit for both the job and the company, they start bargaining always by offering you a low salary which is never matching the skills and requirements that they were searching for or advertising. So practically, they want the perfect candidate but with the lowest budget that they can get!!!
In contrast, your main concern after a long process of interviews and when you reach the finish line is: ’’how much are they going to pay me?’’. And when you find the low opening salary that they want to offer you, you forget about all the other terms and conditions and focus only on raising this starting salary. And after long loops of negotiation, and if you succeeded in slightly increasing your potential salary, you consider this as a ‘’win-win’’ situation and neglect to negotiate the other written terms of the contract.
And the question here is: ‘’besides the money, why aren’t you trying to ask profound questions and also mention part of ‘’your’’ terms and conditions in your contract? Why you cannot as an example negotiate your career path from the beginning and document it, or any other factors which may be important to you?’’.
You may answer and say: ‘’Logic Mohamed, you cannot negotiate your career path or mention it in the terms and conditions because they still do not know you and they cannot guarantee that you are a great performer.’’, And I will answer you by saying: ‘’I agree with what you said, but who said that you know them either? Who said that because this company is having a perfect financial position in the market; that it’s a great place to work for? Or what guarantees that, because of only the name of this company that you will not be reporting to a bad manager who will make you think about quitting the job more than you think about going to work?’’
All that I say is that we have to take the story of the man- which I mentioned at the beginning of the article- and what he did with his contract with the bank as an example. And consider fighting for your rights in any situation in life to really reach a win-win situation and not a theoretical one.
Remove from your head the idea that you are in the weaker bargaining position or that the terms and conditions cannot be changed. The other party needs you as much as you need him, and will never do an agreement with you unless he is sure about winning, and will always try to get the best ‘’terms and conditions’’ in his favor. So the idea of fearing to lose an agreement or an opportunity while trying to reach a win-win situation is only an illusion as ‘’fear’’ is an illusion itself. It’s all fake. It’s only false evidence appearing real in front of you.
And even if it happened and you lost an agreement, your life will not end. Life was never dependent on one person, customer, supplier or employer…etc. Life is much more significant to summarize it in one word or a specific entity.