I'm coming clean. It's been a guilty pleasure of mine for a long time. I justify watching the Bachelor and Bachelorette on ABC by thinking of this as research for my work as a couples counselor and relationship therapist. Truthfully, I find something charming about this over-the-top "romance" show. And honestly, I find important lessons that are applicable to many of my clients' lives.
This week, season 9 of the Bachelorette kicked off as Desiree Hartstock met her 25 suitors. Every season the Bachelor or Bachelorette waits and greets every one of their potential soul mates (PSM) individually. Each PSM exchanges a couple quick words with Des with the hope they will win a first impression rose, and get to stay another week.
It's a little hard to watch all these awkward first meetings- partially because it reminds me of the times I have felt similar social anxiety trying to be smooth on a first date. I watched the show this week and thought of the advice I often give: how to make a great first impression. Here are eight important tips to making a great first impression, learned in my Bachelor and Bachelorette fandom:
1. Look good and smell good
Okay, there wasn't a great example of anyone messing this up, but if you have watched previous seasons, you know there have been a few cringe-worthy moments here. Before you even meet your PSM make sure you brush your teeth, shower, and dress to best present yourself. Don't be afraid to ask a friend for advice if you need!
2. Come prepared for small talk
Think quick: what makes you unique? Think of five things that make you special you don't mind sharing with other people. Now think of five unusual or interesting things you learned, read, or saw on the news this week. Keep this ten topic list ready and be willing to share to keep the conversation going. Keep it light and ask your PSM questions to keep them engaged.
3. Don't get drunk
Almost every season in Bachelor/Bachelorette history drunkenness leads to embarrassment. If you are going to drink on your first date remember that no one respects the cast of the Jersey Shore.
4. Don't push your agenda
This year one of the contestants decided to make a first impression by inviting Des to the fantasy suite before she even knew his name. She turned him down, and when he returned several times throughout the night to ask her again and again she sent him home- even before the rose ceremony. Being so attached to getting laid got him sent home first this season. Don't be that guy.
(side note: if you meet someone on grinder, or the NSA section of craigslist this may not apply in the same way. You might be able to assume you are getting laid. However, remember not to be too attached to one outcome for the evening. You are far more likely to be disappointed that way)
5. Keep it simple
Every year people perform all kinds of wacky tricks to impress the Bachelor or Bachelorette. This year one sweet man tried to impress Des with a few dance moves. Unfortunately for him, he tripped her and she ripped her dress. Keep it simple, you are impressive even without fancy moves.
6. Be memorable, not ridiculous
In their attempts to be memorable amid the crowd of other PSMs, the contestants on the show sometimes put together terribly clumsy acts to leave an impression. And while they do leave an impression (who can forget Lindsey meeting Shawn in her wedding gown?). This season one of the guys wore a full suit of armor. Be genuine, you don't need to hide behind some silly facade to be memorable- authenticity is key to lasting more than one episode (or date).
7. Let them go first
One of the most painful part of the first episode is the overwhelming nerves of 25 people who have never been on television acting out the anxiety natural to so many of us on first dates. One of the most common ways people alleviate anxiety is by talking and all too many PSMs on the Bachelorette just plain talk too much. Take a breath, wait, and let your date talk first once in a while. It will bring you a lot closer a lot quicker.
8. Leave them wanting more
Speaking of talking too much, remember you don't have to say everything. I am often shocked by the personal details PSMs on the Bachelor are willing to share within the first two hours of meeting someone. Yes, be genuine. Yes, talk about how interesting you are. But there is no need to share your dating history, divorce baggage, childhood trauma, etc on national television or a first date (or both). There will be time if needed. For now, leave your date wondering a little bit about you- you don't have to put it all on the table right away.
Good luck to all the Bachelorette contestants. I hope you find the love you are looking for. If you want a relationship coach, please don't hesitate to contact me. And the rest of you fabulous readers, share your tips for successful first impressions in the comments below!