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Negotiations in Israel

NegotiationNegotiations in Israel

In a recent article, “Getting to Si, Ja, Oui and Da,” published by the Harvard Business Review (HBR) (, the author – Erin Meyer – refers to the two main parameters that impact most negotiations between people from different cultures: emotional expressiveness and confrontationalism.

The chart below sorts nationalities according to how confrontational and emotionally expressive they are in their style of negotiation:


Israel’s position on this chart is accurate and interesting. It shows a country that uses both an emotionally expressive and confrontational style of dialogue. In Israel people are used to debates and open disagreement, which are viewed as positive engagement even if not expressed calmly. Israelis emotionally express whatever they are thinking or feeling. They commonly raise their voices during negotiations as well as laugh passionately and even put a friendly arm around you, without paying any attention to the boundaries of personal space. Israeli culture encourages discussion and voicing your own opinion; someone will always ask “why?” and someone will always try to get the price down.

Working as an organizational consultant in global companies has given me the opportunity to hear many stories highlighting cultural differences. Here is a nice example of Israeli behavior in negotiations and how a person from a different culture perceives it:

Alan, an American businessperson who came to Israel years ago, told me about his first meeting in Israel before his start-up company was acquired by an Israeli firm.

The meeting started off with a pleasant atmosphere, including food, warm small talk and smiles. However, the two Israeli executives sitting on either side of him fairly quickly began to argue loudly about several critical points in the contract. The Israelis seemed angry and switched to Hebrew. Of course Alan could not understand, but he gathered from the loud tones, rapid hand movements and contorted facial expressions that there were some major obstacles to closing the deal. He was sure it had fallen through. To his great surprise, at the end of the meeting the Israeli men put their hands on each other’s shoulders and, smiling, said: “So, what are we having for lunch?” For Alan, this was a shock. How could they go on as though nothing was wrong after raising their voices in such apparent anger?

The punch line is that the agreement was signed after lunch, and Alan has been working in the merged Israeli company ever since.

In our global world, many businesspeople lack the knowledge required for international negotiations, meaning that the basic elements of negotiation are not enough. Even if you understand the local language, it doesn’t mean you know how to recognize body language or comprehend the values and mindset of the other culture. Only by having all this knowledge will you be able to minimize the cultural differences and negotiate successfully.

Anyone interested in better understanding Israeli business culture, its roots and characteristics, is invited to purchase the book Israeli Business Culture on Amazon. This practical book combines background information with real-life anecdotes and recommendations for good cross-cultural communication.

Read more about the author of the book and the blog, Osnat Lautman, and the services offered by the company OLM Consulting, at the


OLM Consulting Founder

Osnat Lautman is a well-known intercultural expert and the author of the Amazon bestselling book ‘Israeli Business Culture’. Osnat is passionate about cultures, connecting humans and breaking through culture barriers. She created the ISRAELI™ model of Israeli business characteristics (Informal, Straightforward, Risk-Taking, Ambitious, Entrepreneurial, Loud, Improvisational) to reveal the foundations of the Israeli innovative culture. Osnat supports many organizations and individuals to effectively connect and engage with Israelis, avoid misunderstanding and maximize the value of combining the innovative Israeli spirit into a multi culture environment.

Osnat is the founder of OLM Consulting and her customer include the Manufacturers’ Association of Israel, The Jewish Agency, Verint, NYU Tel Aviv, the British Embassy, the Swedish Embassy, the Belgium Embassy, FIDF, Israel Defense Ministry delegation in New York, JCC Association, National Bank of Australia, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 888 Holdings, Corning, SkyVision, ObserveIT, MX1, Israel Export Institute, StartApp, Tel Aviv Municipality, and many others.

Osnat lived in Hoboken, New Jersey, from 2009 to 2013. During this time, she started her extensive research on the differences between Israeli and non-Israeli business cultures, including video interviews with businesspeople from numerous origins. The recorded discussions are incorporated into her lectures and workshops for demonstration purposes.

Osnat holds:
M.A in Social Science and Communications, Bar Ilan University, Israel
Certificate in Organizational Development, New York University, New York
Coach License from Co-Active Training Institute, Israel

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