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Entries in Maria Keckler (3)


How to Become a More Influential Storyteller

Maria Keckler knows how to build effective bridges between people and to her audiences. In this Influence UPGRADE, she helps us focus on the gift of storytelling.

“Jesus got the attention of his audiences, stirred their emotions, and helped them remember key messages because he presented principles through the best communication vehicle at our disposal: Story,” Maria says.

“You have an important message to share. Shouldn’t it be delivered well?”

Brevity is not my (Dawn's) strength in public speaking, and I can learn from Maria today; but I know the power of storytelling in driving a message home. Thankfully, both are skills we can learn.

Maria continues . . . 

“Stacie, my sixteen-year-old daughter, was outgoing and beautiful, full of hopes and dreams. Until one man destroyed them in a single moment. He stalked our family for two weeks and waited until Stacie was home alone….”

Lorraine’s gripping story spells out one key message: Through the power of Jesus, one can forgive and still make an impact despite terrible loss.

You can become a more influential communicator—whether sharing your testimony or your next marketing idea—by learning to be a more compelling storyteller.

Sometimes a Powerful Story is Only ONE Chapter of a Bigger Story.

Lorraine’s story of loss and forgiveness is by no means her complete testimony as a disciple of Jesus Christ. It is, however, one chapter God is using to bring thousands of incarcerated men and women to faith through her prison ministry.

So the question at hand is—how do we share powerful stories, without rambling, so that we earn the right to share more or have the opportunity to influence others in positive ways?

Four Steps to Sharing Stories Like Jesus Did

First: Embrace empathy.

How? Learn to consider the needs of your audiences. You can read more about what that looks like in my previous article.

Second: Share only one story at a time.

Whether he addressed the Pharisees, the masses, or his disciples—Jesus shared one complete story at a time. Each story had a clear beginning, middle, and end that drove home a key message for a particular audience.

Third: Choose vivid word pictures.

Jesus’ stories were rich with concrete and vivid details that evoked the senses.

Even today, we can almost see and smell the oil and wine the Good Samaritan poured on the wounds of the beaten traveler. We can picture the Prodigal Son contemplating the food of swine—and leap with joy as the father runs to welcome him home.

Fourth: Practice brevity.

In the words of Max Lucado, “We learn brevity from Jesus. His greatest sermon can be read in eight minutes (Matthew 5-7). His best-known story can be read in 90 seconds (Luke 15:11-32). He summarized prayer in five phrases (Matthew 6:9-13), and he reduced all his teachings to one command (John 15:12). He made his point and went home.” 

Bottom line:

We all must overcome the temptation to share our entire life story or grand idea in one sitting. It’s helpful to think of our opportunity to share as one piece of a larger story.

Start applying the previous lessons by answering these questions: 

  1. What stories do I want or need to share with others?
  2. What story is best suited for the audience God has given me today?
  3. What is the key takeaway of my story?
  4. What vivid details can I use to evoke my audience’s senses?
  5. How can I be as brief as Jesus?

God is using one of Lorraine’s stories to bring a message of hope, forgiveness, and redemption to imprisoned men and women. As you continue preparing to share yours well, God will provide a larger audience for you too. 

Maria Keckler is the author of Bridge-Builders: How Superb Communicators Get What They Want in Business and in Life. Maria is an executive coach, corporate trainer, and the President of Superb Communication. With her husband, Sam, Maria has also been helping married couples improve their communication. Check out Maria's blog!

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Andrew Phillips, Stocksnapio.


How to Earn the Right to Share Your Story

Maria Keckler is a natural coach. She offers keen counsel to help build bridges in ministry, leadership and personal relationships—an UPGRADE of great importance!

“Empathy,” Maria says, “is the ability to stand in our audience’s shoes, see through their eyes, think through their perspective, and feel with their hearts.”

Have you ever seen an empathetic person in action? I (Dawn) have. She was selfless and genuinely concerned, fully engaged—heart and mind. She listened until she understood! “What a gift,” I thought.

Maria continues ...

Jesus is empathy personified. God wrapped himself in flesh and walked the earth as a man and can forever say,

I know what it’s like to be you. I know how it feels to be tempted, to lose someone you love, to endure rejection and physical pain.”

And isn’t that why you listen to Jesus—to His story? You know He cares about you because He knows what it’s like to be you.

Empathetic Listening Unlocks the Heart

I’ll never forget a time my husband was facilitating a group listening activity in which participants were asked to pair up. The “listener” was instructed to ask personal questions in order to better understand what his or her communication partner cared deeply about. The “listener” had to be attentive and couldn’t interrupt until the person sharing was completely finished.

Half way through the activity, a woman excused herself and walked out of the room. Later, she shared privately that it was out of character for her to be so emotional—especially in public—but it was the first time in her adult life she felt truly heard.

Empathetic listening is a gift and a choice, but one of the most neglected practices today.

When we are:

  • Listening in order to have a chance to respond ...
  • Listening to quickly insert our own story ... 
  • Listening to find a “sin” we can address with a Bible story ...
  • Listening with contempt ... 

... these forms of listening are NOT empathetic listening and will get in the way when we finally get the chance to share our story.

Earning an Invitation to Share

My friend Diane Szuch earns the right to share her story with women whose joy has been stolen and heart has been broken at the feet of sexual abuse, because she first listens to them with extraordinary empathy—and so can you.

What does empathetic listening look like?

The traditional Chinese symbol for listening gives us the clues to empathetic listening. It contains the characters for ears, eyes, attention (mind), heart, and king. In other words, we are to listen fully engaged as in the presence of the king.

In practical terms…

  1. Be fully present. Put away the phone.
  2. Listen with your eyes. Make eye contact, but don’t be creepy about it. Natural eye contact is not a staring contest.
  3. Listen with your body. Lean in, nod and affirm.
  4. Listen with your heart. Withhold judgment.
  5. Convey empathy. Offer neutral but authentic acknowledgement remarks to indicate you are present. (Really! Wow! Mmm ... Oh my!)
  6. Embrace silence. Silence can be one of the most powerful elements of a conversation, opening doors to vulnerability and intimacy.

There are many times we are ready and eager to share our story, but the right opportunity never seems to come.  But you can turn things around today!

How can listening more—and more empathically—help you build a bridge to the hearts of those God has put in your path? 

Maria Keckler has been coaching married couples (with her husband) for more than 15 years. They’re teaching leaders at Shadow Mountain Community Church. Maria is an executive coach, corporate trainer, and the author of Bridge-Builders: How Superb Communicators Get What They Want in Business and in Life. She invites readers to follow her blog and purchase her book.

Graphic adapted, Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at


Six Secrets to 'Superb Communication'

Whether we are preparing to share a testimony, give a devotional, or create a message or lecture, there are some basic things we can do that will help us UPGRADE our communication. 

Meet Maria Keckler, founder and director of Superb Communication, who offers some wise advice. These tips can also help with our social media communication, and we may even be able to apply most (if not all) of these “secrets” to our communication in personal relationships! Superb communication makes a difference anywhere!


Did you get those steps? Superb communication tells a story, and is useful, prepared, eloquent, reliable and brief—to the point.

Which communication secret do you think would most UPGRADE your communication to others?

Maria Keckler is a speaker, author, and the president of Superb Communication, a consulting firm that specializes in improving results and reducing the cost of change through more robust communication. Read about and download Maria's latest tool that helps improve productivity by 30%.