Claire Newton

Durban - Claire Newton always loved hats. In fact, she bought many, but didn’t wear them for a long time; until a mad hatter tea party to which she decided she had to wear her blue velvet hat.

It was a turning point for her. “Perhaps it was because I was older and less self-conscious, but I just felt it was time to do what I wanted to,” she says.

Now she wears hats all the time, even when she is delivering her self-improvement talks, a series of which begins next week, all around the art of conversation.

Newton says she meets many women who don’t see the power in being themselves.

“I like to call it You-Q, being you. It’s not about appearing to be intelligent or appearing to be anything other than authentic, the real you. I talk to women about changing their head talk – this is primarily through positive affirmations, sometimes through deep psychology.

“I also talk to them about relating to others.”

Newton says the ideas are simple, but getting there isn’t always.

“Finding your real self is about really thinking about who you are, what your values are and what your purpose is. It doesn’t have to be grand – consider your gifts, talents and skills and look outside yourself.

“Vision is important too. Once you know who you are you need a clear idea of where you are headed.”

She also addresses the idea of avoiding conflict.

“Women often think being assertive means being pushy or aggressive. However, assertiveness is about speaking clearly, openly and honestly in a way that keeps the lines of communication open.

“You’re not being rude or submissive, and what you’ll find is that people will know exactly where they stand with you. The same goes for conflict. You need to reframe it – it’s okay to disagree, but it’s how you do it.”

Newton suggests staying calm, listening to what the other person is saying, paraphrasing it as you understand it for clarity and then offering your point of view. She says paraphrasing helps avoid misunderstanding.

Another pointer she offers is to forget the old wife’s tale that one should never sleep on an argument.

“If you’re tired, sleep. Agree to talk about it later – within 24 hours is fine. It’s far better to stop when you are angry and agree to pick up the conversation when you are calmer,” she says. - The Mercury