#128 For the Best Results, Focus on Your Listeners

Today's Guest: Maria Nemeth

Today I interview Dr. Maria Nemeth who shares her journey of dealing with shyness despite being labeled as an extrovert. Dr. Nemeth explains the distinction between being extroverted and feeling shy, recounting personal stories that shed light on the challenges she faced.

Throughout the conversation, she shared breakthrough moments that impacted her personal growth, her initial struggles in public speaking, and a memorable moment that challenged her newfound voice.

Despite the challenges of shyness, Maria’s unwavering desire to share her thoughts has been a constant driving force. Presently, she passionately expresses her commitment to sharing invaluable insights and cultivating authentic connections with others. At the core of her mission is the profound belief that public speaking transcends the mere act of impressing; it’s about genuinely reaching and empowering the audience.


Dr. Maria Nemeth, PhD, MCC, is a renowned expert in leadership excellence, personal/professional development, and financial empowerment. As the Founder & Director of the Academy for Coaching Excellence, an internationally accredited coach training program, she has trained numerous individuals across nonprofit, for-profit, and governmental sectors.

Dr. Nemeth’s influence extends beyond coaching, as she has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show and in Inc. Magazine. She is the author of the highly-acclaimed book, “The Energy of Money: A Spiritual Guide to Financial and Personal Fulfillment,” available in five languages. Her follow-up book, “Mastering Life’s Energies: Simple Steps for a Luminous Life at Work and Play,” further solidifies her expertise.

Watch the episode:

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Transcript of Interview

Transcript of Interview

Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast

Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing

Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com

Episode #128 Dr. Maria Nemeth

“For the Best Results, Focus on Your Listeners”


(00:35) Doreen Downing: Hi, this is Dr. Doreen Downing, and I’m host of the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life podcast. I love interviewing people that I admire, and today I get to interview Dr. Maria Nemeth, and she is somebody that I have followed for years, and I finally get to have a time with our conversation. Hi, Maria. 

(00:58) Dr. Maria Nemeth: Hi. It’s really wonderful to be able to be talking with you as well. I’m thrilled that you have me here. 

(01:05) Doreen Downing: Yes. Well, part of what happens for me on these podcasts is that I open up the space for us to have a conversation and it’s about getting to know you. Because the podcast focuses on people who have had some kind of struggle with voice, having some way of finding who they really are and then using that sense of who they are to speak up and speak out in the world. 

And because I’m a psychologist, I always like to venture back a little ways, earlier life experiences, because I think that’s where a lot of the grounding, both the strength as well as the struggle is, right?

So, if we could start with that idea, that topic of finding your voice as a young one, what comes to mind? 

(02:01) Dr. Maria Nemeth: Finding my voice as a young person—I was always shy. As a matter of fact, I still am, and people say, “But Dr. Maria, you’re an extrovert.” For those of us who know what that means, it’s from the Myers Briggs type indicator.

It means that the extrovert is someone who expresses themselves and yet I discovered something that I think you’ll really find interesting, Dr. Doreen. Extroversion is independent of being shy or sociable. If we were to have a scale and introvert, extrovert is one part of that, and then shy, sociable, the other. 

(02:49) Doreen Downing: Oh, my goodness. I’m already learning so much. 

(02:51) Dr. Maria Nemeth: They’re almost independent variables. I have a friend who is deeply—she’s an introvert, but when she goes to a party, she will find two or three people to talk to and she’ll just talk to them for the whole party and have a ball.

Me, I step into a party and I don’t know who to talk to first. It’s just a sense of being more reluctant to engage immediately in social interactions. And so, I tell people just because you might be an extrovert doesn’t mean that you always go toward making friends that quickly. 

(03:31) Doreen Downing: Yes or have an ease with speaking up in front of others.

(03:35) Dr. Maria Nemeth: Oh, Yes, absolutely, and I’ve always, when I was younger, I wanted to learn how to speak in front of people. 

(03:43) Doreen Downing: Why? 

(03:44) Dr. Maria Nemeth: Well because I had a sense that there were so many things that excited me that I wanted to share them with others that they might be excited about as well. 

For example, when I first started, I was doing a lot of crisis intervention, and so I developed a short course on teaching people crisis intervention. And I found something really interesting that when I taught a course, and I could be Dr. Maria Nemeth with my PhD in psychology, or about to get my PhD, it was easier to talk, but if I had to share something about myself, that shyness kicked in. 

I remember that I tried a club where they teach people how to speak publicly. And I remember one day when it was my turn to stand up and talk and I don’t even remember too much what the topic was. I think it may have had something to do with sharing my favorite recipe that people might love. It was something like that that required me to just be Maria. 

(05:02) Doreen Downing: Yes. Something that you knew and something that was true for you. 

(05:06) Dr. Maria Nemeth: But to be Maria and not Dr. Nemeth. 

(05:09) Doreen Downing: Oh, I get it. Yes, and a little more exposed? 

(05:14) Dr. Maria Nemeth: Exposed. And I did a terrible job. As a matter of fact, I did such a bad job that when I looked out at the audience—now this was when I was like 27 or 28—I looked out at the audience and people were just looking at me like, “What is she talking about?” 

(05:41) Doreen Downing: Yes. You just rolled your eyes, so I think that’s what you saw. 

(05:45) Dr. Maria Nemeth: Yes. The woman who was heading up this program came up to me, and in front of everybody, whispered in my ear, “I think you’d better take your seat, dear.” Oh god, I was humiliated. She didn’t humiliate me. I humiliated myself. 

(06:08) Doreen Downing: Ah, say more about that idea. 

(06:10) Dr. Maria Nemeth: Yes, because there’s a sense that, “Oh, well, it’s her fault for humiliating me,” but no, no, no, no, no. I had humiliated myself because I was not being real. And even talking about what I loved fell flat.

What I discovered—and this was the breakthrough point for me—was that in that moment, as a matter of fact, even talking to you about it brings up the feeling from the past, that I was more concerned with myself than I was with meeting the people out there. My attention was entirely on me and not on them. 

(07:01) Doreen Downing: Well, there was so much going on inside of you, perhaps it takes up all the space. 

(07:07) Dr. Maria Nemeth: Well, it does, but it was such an important moment for me to see because I wanted to speak in front of people from an early age because I had a sense that I had something to share that could make people laugh or give them some value.

And I was comfortable leading classes because I could be Dr. Nemeth, but the minute it was taken away and I was just Maria. It was very difficult. That shyness came up again. So that was on a Friday and I went home and I must have cried. Right around then, I’ll tell you how long ago it was. There was a Look magazine. Do you remember Look magazine? 

(07:59) Doreen Downing: I remember Look. I remember Life. The Post. 

(08:03) Dr. Maria Nemeth: There was a Look magazine, and for those of you who are listening, it used to be a very popular magazine. There was an article on Star Wars, where Yoda is talking to young Luke, where he says, “There is no such thing as try. It’s either do or do not.” Because Luke is saying to Yoda, “I’ll try to raise that ship out of the swamp,” and Yoda was saying, “No, no, no, there’s no try. There’s either do or do not.” And I saw that and up until then, I had been trying to be a speaker that gave value to people. I wasn’t doing it and it really woke me up.

(09:00) Doreen Downing: That’s exactly what I was thinking—and I wanted listeners to hear this—is that the wake up is what you’re describing. 

(09:10) Dr. Maria Nemeth: Oh Yes. It was a real wake up because I never wanted to be in front of an audience in which they were looking at me like, “What the heck is she talking about?” Because I was mumbling and losing my train of thought and, oh, it was awful. But it was so useful because since then it’s almost like coming through the fire in a way. 

I just discovered that what I really wanted to do was to reach people. I was more interested in that than in being comfortable. I was more interested in that than trying to impress people about me. Because the minute all my attention was on me, at that very moment, that’s when people started losing interest. I discovered that when I look out into the audience and I take a moment and I just take a deep breath and look at everybody and imagine what a privilege it is to speak in front of them.

(10:29) Doreen Downing: Oh, you’re really touching my heart right now. 

(10:32) Dr. Maria Nemeth: At that moment, what happens is what I have to say comes out so much more easily because I’m looking at them. I’m not looking at myself. As a matter of fact, I discovered that I had become transparent to myself, meaning I was no longer even thinking about myself. That came very useful one day when I had another wakeup call and this is what happened.

I write about this in my book, Mastering Life’s Energies. I was at a conference, the National Institute of the Clinical Application of Behavioral Medicine. We used to call it NYCABM.

And so there I was at Hilton Head. They’d asked me to speak on The Hero’s Journey, referencing Joseph Campbell, how the hero’s journey affects us. So, I fly in from California. The night before, I’m in Hilton Head and I’ve got my great outfit and my shoes and my makeup and all kinds of stuff, my earrings. Laid it all out. 

That morning, I woke up, I knew I had at least two and a half hours. So, I go into the room where they served us breakfast, the concierge room and I’m eating my oatmeal and I’m in these dark green sweats, hair is all messy. I have just tied on some old sloppy shoes and that’s all I’m wearing. Just these sweats. 

Nothing on underneath, just these sweats. All of a sudden, the head of the conference comes pounding through the door, “Maria, where are you?” I said, “Here, what, what?” She said, “You have 325 people waiting for you right now.” I said, “But I have a whole hour.” she said, “No, you don’t.” I had misjudged the time. 

(12:56) Doreen Downing: Oh, yes. Different time zones. Oh my gosh. 

(13:00) Dr. Maria Nemeth: It was like, “Oh s***.”

(13:04) Doreen Downing: So, what’d you do?

(13:06) Dr. Maria Nemeth: She said, “They’ve been waiting for you for 10 whole minutes.” So, I said, “Okay, let’s just go.” I get into the elevator with no makeup, nothing, and she’s all upset. I’m nervous myself, but I walk in, walk down the center aisle and there are these people looking at me like who’s this person? No makeup, hair a mess. 

As I get on the stage, I say to them, “Have you ever had a nightmare in which you were supposed to speak in front of people and you came dressed in your sweats?” They started laughing.

And I said, “I’d like you to imagine for me this beautiful dress,” and I described the dress. “Please imagine for me that you’re seeing it with me right now because here I am.” And right then I knew that all was well because I started putting that together with The Hero’s Journey, and what happens when we’re on our journey and we hit an obstacle, what do you do?

Do you give up or do you keep going? Now, people enjoyed the talk and afterwards there was a group of women and they come up to me and I’m standing on the stage, they look up, they said, “Come on, you planned it this way.” I said, “No, not only that…” They said, “What?” I said, “No underwear.” Burst out laughing. That was like moving into the obstacle instead of trying to run away from it. 

(14:47) Doreen Downing: Oh, for those of you who aren’t watching and only listening, Maria just did this gesture with her hands, this moving “into,” which I felt like really demonstrated this kind of energy of not getting tight, but just moving gracefully into the situation.

I’m going to take a brief break here with you, Dr. Maria, and come back because I’m so excited to hear a few more vignettes. This is really so educational and I’m sure people are learning so much already from you. We’ll be right back. 

(15:24) Dr. Maria Nemeth: Thanks. 

(15:34) Doreen Downing: Hi, we’re back with Dr. Maria Nemeth. I didn’t—in the very beginning—read a bio, so I want to do that right now because I have already grown to admire and love her. She’s a master coach, speaker, author, and she offers purpose-driven people, simple yet powerful tools for training our brains for success. And I feel like already, today, if you haven’t, if you’re only tuning in right now, please go back because there’s also been a couple of really valuable lessons we’ve been able to learn from Dr. Maria. 

Designed and refined over decades of work with people all over the world, her work turns timeless wisdom into practical skills that have helped tens of thousands—and this is what I love about what you wrote—to live and serve with clarity, focus, ease, and grace. 

That is such a beautiful vision for ourselves, I think, especially those who are struggling with speaking anxiety, to begin to imagine that they can be in this world with those words that you’ve pointed to. And I think that the two vignettes, especially that you mentioned today, the one about showing up at a speaking event in your pajamas or your sweats, basically it was PJ’s, lounge-y. And the other one where you felt like you didn’t really show up fully as yourself, and you were feeling a little bit well, ashamed, sad about that.

But the way you transform that I think leads to these things that you’re talking about, especially grace. Moving into life and whatever life gives you, the more graceful we can be, the more I think there’s positive outcomes for ourselves and others. So welcome back. 

(17:38) Dr. Maria Nemeth: Thanks. It’s wonderful to be back. I just love how you so clearly and sweetly bring your guests forward in the conversation. I love it. 

(17:52) Doreen Downing: Yes, well. I’m excited and thrilled to learn. And just going to say something really, really quickly here. The other day I was online and I was part of a summit. I gave the speech on Thursday. Friday, I showed up for the other speakers that were giving their presentations and I happened to be at one and the organizers said—guess what?—”Whoever was supposed to show up at this slot didn’t show up. Doreen, would you repeat yesterday’s presentation? Because actually we neglected to get it on video.” 

(18:29) Dr. Maria Nemeth: Oh, my heavens.

(18:30) Doreen Downing: I was in that same situation. And it was an hour-long presentation. It was on zoom. So, nobody knew that I was in my sweats. 

But I did not have any preparation. So, I relate to this idea of self-acceptance and knowing what you love and what you share. I did it without notes even. The day before I had my notes and it was more fun to do note-less.

(18:58) Dr. Maria Nemeth: Of course it is. And I think one of the things you’re pointing out too, is the shift in perception that we’re not speaking for ourselves. We are speaking to provide value for other people. Is what I’m saying worth hearing? 

Now, I say that everyone has something worth hearing. But what I’ve found is that the most important point is to be blown away by the privilege of being in front of people who are there, willing to hear what you have to say. That when I put my attention on them, like, look at these heroes out there, they could be other places, but they’re here and they all have goals and dreams just like everybody else.

They all have a desire to make a difference. They all have a voice of wisdom inside of them and they deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. And the minute I see that about them, then who I am, as I said earlier, it just kind of melts away. I’m not aware of myself so much anymore. I’m more aware of them and what I have to offer. You know what I’m saying? 

(20:37) Doreen Downing: I do. I know exactly what—I was going to say physiological, but it’s definitely a physical, not just a mental shift, but a whole embodied shift and that your heart opens up and you flow.

(20:50) Dr. Maria Nemeth: That’s it. 

(20:51) Doreen Downing: Yes, I got you. I’ve had that experience and I’ll tell you, I want to say here, is that what you’re describing to people in the way that the focus is on something beautiful inside of the person, like their wisdom, rather than what most people focus on happens to be the negative thinking that they think that the person is thinking about them.

(21:19) Dr. Maria Nemeth: Yes, and I’ve heard people say that and I used to think that too, except I’ve discovered something. People aren’t thinking very much about me. They think about their own selves, except if I’m doing a terrible job because my focus is on me. For the most part, people have their own lives, their own families, their own anxieties, their own stuff that they’re worried about. 

I say to some of the people that I teach, I know it’s somewhat of a narcissistic blow to discover, narcissistic meaning what if I discovered that people who aren’t thinking about me at all, they’re thinking about themselves. People don’t wake up on a Tuesday morning and say, “Oh, this is a beautiful day. I wonder what Dr. Maria is doing today. What is she thinking?” People don’t do that.

The thing about that is to make your presentation so inviting for them, so acknowledging them that they feel for a moment that someone really sees who they are. Someone who’s talking to me right now, somehow knows me. They are interested in me. And the minute I can have a sense that a speaker is that way, I just want to hear what they have to say because it’s so sweet, it’s so empowering. 

As you know, I’m the director of a coach training academy, the Academy for Coaching Excellence, and I’ve been a coach now for 30 years. And one day, if you’re ever interested, if the audience is, I’d be happy to talk about the difference between coaching and psychotherapy, for example. But I’ve come to see something about people who come for coaching. 

(23:33) Doreen Downing: What’s that? 

(23:34) Dr. Maria Nemeth: I say this to students over and over and over again. Yes, it’s important to develop skills. You must be well-trained. And the basic reason that someone comes for coaching, no matter if they’re a leader of a multinational business or just a little business on their own, a little entrepreneur.

People want to be in the presence of someone who knows who they are. Someone who will not give up on them. The way they’re tempted to give up on themselves. That is the primary reason someone comes for coaching. And yes, they have goals, they have dreams, they want to make a difference. But it won’t happen unless they’re with someone who sees the privilege of being with them. 

(24:36) Doreen Downing: Oh, you’ve said that several times today, the privilege and what happens for you as you pay attention to people in this different way, and that’s what I think I’m hoping people will get from you specifically today is how you’ve languaged that being able to have a relationship with somebody in such—or an audience, the whole audience—in such a way that they feel seen, heard—I’m going to put a word in because I feel it from you—loved. 

(25:11) Dr. Maria Nemeth: Yes. You did it perfectly—loved and respected. For those of us who have had difficulty speaking, what you have to say is valuable, however, it will only be of value to others if you take the attention off yourself. That’s it. 

(25:47) Doreen Downing: Right? And what you’re talking about is the message and people invest a lot in coaching around their message, but what you’re also talking about is the messenger, and that to me is what’s most important in what you are saying today and why I do this podcast is that everybody who’s been on my podcast has had a message. I want to know what is behind that. Who is the person? 

What you’ve done today, Maria, is represent, not just your message, but your actual being showing up today, being able to express and share with us. It’s so delightful. I did a workshop once and there was a difference between dynamic speaking and magnetic speaking. You are like a magnet. You draw people towards you because that’s what listening to the listening does. It helps people listen back to you. 

(26:51) Dr. Maria Nemeth: Well said. Oh, I love that. Thank you. 

(26:55) Doreen Downing: You’re welcome. We’re coming to an end. You and I will have more conversations somewhere down the line. They may not be recorded, folks, but get what you can today, and I want you to give listeners a place where they—you mentioned your coaching institute or academy—where can people find you?

(27:17) Dr. Maria Nemeth: Well, you can find me in a number of places. First, you can go to my website marianemeth.com and you’ll see my podcast, the Energy of Money Podcast. You’ll see weekly articles. I write an article every week. That’s designed to be read in three to four minutes. Please, I’d love you to read what I have to say and answer me back. There’s a way to do that. Or you can look at a personal transformation course at the Academy for Coaching Excellence, A-C-E. Look us up there. 

(27:59) Doreen Downing: I love that—Academy for Coaching Excellence. I love the word “excellence” too. That’s one of the words I’m walking away with today is how, not just excellent, but excellence, the essence part of it. 

(28:16) Dr. Maria Nemeth: You got it. Oh, you’re so great. 

(28:19) Doreen Downing: You’re great too. I think I’ve fallen in love here today. Thank you so much. Dr. Nemeth. 

(28:26) Dr. Maria Nemeth: Really such a pleasure to be with you. Thank you. 

(28:31) Doreen Downing: Thank you.

Also listen on…

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.

7 STEP GUIDE TO FEARLESS SPEAKINGPodcast host, Dr. Doreen Downing, helps people find their voice so they can overcome anxiety, be confident, and speak without fear.

Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speakingdoreen7steps.com.