It seems that people can't go through life these days without adding their signature to at least a few documents. You'll need to sign papers when you're setting up a home inspection and will usually have some things to read over and sign when you start up a new job. This is not to mention all of the paperwork that has to be approved and signed for those that are buying or selling a home. No matter what type of contract you're signing, there are some thing that you should know before adding your name on that dotted line.
The first thing that you need to do is read over everything that you're reading. This might seem a little obvious but it can appear to be more work than it's worth when you're facing a several page agreement to buy a car or work as a mortgage broker. Lawyers will tell you that one of the most common problems that people get into when it comes to contracts is that they didn't know that there was some clause or condition in the agreement when they signed. This is not an excuse in legal matters so you will want to cover yourself by reading everything. The Strategic Bar Coach would certainly advise everyone to read and be sure that you understand every page of a document before ever signing it.
There are going to be a large number of legal terms in any contract that you're signing and they are usually written in a way that is much different from how most of us speak or write. Because of that you might have a hard time understanding everything that you're reading the first time around. If you're signing an agreement to buy something than you might want to take the contract home to look it over further.
Make sure you know what happens if you want to get out of the contract at any point. If you've purchased a home or an expensive piece of art than you're likely signing a document that says that you will accept the item in its current condition. Those that are signing up for a phone plan are going to be placed in that contract for at least a year with most companies. Know what the procedure is for buying yourself out of the contract or if it can just be cancelled somehow.
Don't ever let someone make you feel pressured about signing any document that you're unsure of. If you're dealing in real estate or trying to get a good deal on a tablet with 3G services, you should never feel rushed or like it's not okay to take your time with the contract before signing. If you feel this way than it might be better to walk away than to sign under those circumstances.
There is a lot of legal jargon to understand in contracts and official documents. Find some definitions in the law dictionary.