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It requires a bit of guts to ask questions.  This is especially true in Japan when majority of the participants are Japanese,  as very few questions are usually raised and Q & A session usually leaves uncomfortable silence at least for a while.   It is very different with non-Japanese participants and overseas.

So if you are Japanese and attending international conference or symposium, you have to get psyched to ask questions in English, our second language.

However, if you ask questions, you usually learn many things.  I am now quite used to asking questions in whatever context–Japan, overseas, with Japanese, with global participants, regardless of the subject.  I think having questions and asking them indicates that you listen, think and are not clear about something.

I used to make it a rule to ask at least one question in any lecture, seminar, or conference.  I forced myself to ask questions and as you do it so often, you feel more comfortable doing so.  It is NOT going to be such a big deal.

At the recent St.Gallen Symposium, I asked questions on the first day during the first plenary.  It was a simple question, and simply the one that came to my mind, while listening to the panel.  A few people came up to me after that and said that it was a good question. (It definitely made me feel good!)

On the second day, I also asked the question, but it did not go that well.  I got an impression that the moderator thought that they had covered the question I raised already.  (In fact, I was writing while listening to the panel, so my attention could have been not as focused.)  I also thought that the way I asked the question was not clear enough.  (I wanted something  much more specific than what had been covered.)

Right after the session, I felt that my question was not relevant or the way I asked the question was not good.  Then a few hours later, the man whom I had met earlier came up to me and said that I did not get what I wanted from the responses.  So we started talking about what I had intended to ask etc.  The fact that at least one person got what I had in mind saved me and made me feel much better.

So asking questions, though sometimes not successful in delivering the message, almost always leads to some learning.

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