The Language of Feelings & the Power of Empathy

Michael Tennant knows about feelings. An empathy expert and entrepreneur — Tennant is the founder and CEO of Curiosity Lab, as well as the author of the forthcoming book The Power of Empathy: A 30-Day Path to Personal Growth and Social Change — he has made it his life’s work to spread empathy and make it easy to learn and teach.

Getting to that point wasn’t easy, though, as he told an attentive crowd at the SHE Media Co-Lab Future of Health event at SXSW, when he talked about the language of feelings and led the group through a mini empathy workshop.

“My road to getting here was a road of learning how to deal with emotions,” he said. “In 2019, just before the pandemic, I tragically lost two of my older brothers within three months of one another. With that first loss, I learned that I’ve been going through my whole life without really knowing how to witness the emotions that I was experiencing, and even worse, [without knowing] how to endure them, how to cope and move through to a place of resolution. I had to figure that out.”

Michael Tennant at SHE Media Co-Lab at SXSW held at Native on March 11, 2023 in Austin, Texas.
Daniel Cavazos for SHE Media

Tennant admitted that he fell back into the “toxic coping mechanisms” of his younger-adult years — and realized that if he continued relying on those unhealthy habits, he might soon be joining his brothers. Luckily, an existing relationship with therapy and a weekly men’s emotional leadership group helped him learn to connect with and speak about his emotions, as well as how to move through them.

One important piece of that work: “I had to put together a paradigm that made sense for me to heal through,” he said. That started with acknowledging and recognizing the emotions in his body. Meditation helped, as did a journaling habit that starts with his personal value statement and purpose statement. (Go to to discover your own core values and your purpose statement.)

“Every morning to this day, I write that purpose statement at the top of my journal, I check in with my body, and I make an assessment of where I need to focus my time and my energy that day,” he said.

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