I hate being told off – as a lawyer and avid rule-follower in my younger days, I used to follow every sign, rule and restriction, however nonsensical it might seem. Most of us struggle with constantly being told what not to do… and yet many contracts focus on what is wrong, rather than what right looks like.
Terms Loaded with Criticism
I love the island of Guernsey… but when I first visited I saw notices everywhere telling you what you can and cannot do – don’t sit on a wall in case you fall off, don’t throw stones on the beach, don’t park here, don’t walk along the seawall when there are waves. It might be well-intentioned but after a while the notices become meaningless. How can we tell when it is a real risk of serious injury or pettifogging nonsense?
The difficulty with constantly telling someone what they can’t do, is that it doesn’t actually make it clear what you actively want them to do. If you yell ‘stop shouting’ at someone (the irony!) are you asking them to talk normally, whisper, or shut up completely? Clarity is critical in all our communications – ‘don’t do X’ is not the same as ‘please do non-X’.
At 500 Words, we prefer to adopt a positive style to our terms where possible, minimising the warnings (and marking those with a warning icon to ensure they are noticed). However, we know that as you use the terms, you may be tempted to add in clauses to deal with issues you’ve faced in the past – if you do, ask for what you want.
We are currently working with a consultant who is sharing their unique process with their client and its staff as well as a range of resources such as video content. There are two ways of addressing the restrictions on staff using that content by explaining:
- What the users can do with the resources and when (‘go on, fill your boots’)
- What they cannot do and also the dire consequences if they breach those restrictions (‘I’ll send the heavies round’).
Of course, which party hosts that online content has a huge impact on the ease of enforcing these restrictions but that’s another story… Not all solutions that we propose to our clients are based on legal terms!
Wouldn’t you rather read something which explained your rights and remedies, rather than your restrictions? The final lesson from Emma’s puppy training in this video: