ABC’s The Bachelor franchise is making a massive comeback in its 28th season thanks to new Bachelor, Joey Graziadei. The 28-year-old tennis pro is a fan-favorite from The Bachelorette Season 20 with Charity Lawson, heralded as the “best bachelor in recent history.” Joey is earning reviews like “straight out of a romance novel” from fans gushing over his dreamy eye contact, sweet sincerity, and emotional sensitivity. 

Many viewers have joked that Joey was “written by a woman,” but Joey has shared that there have been many lived experiences that have made him into a man who is empathetic, accepting, and vulnerable. As a relationship therapist and proud member of Bachelor Nation, I’m going to break down exactly why from my perspective Joey is having so much success as The Bachelor. Drawing on research and my own work with clients, I’ll share the specific lessons that you can take away to follow in his lead and build stronger and more fulfilling relationships.

The Challenge of The Bachelor 

Dating 32 women at once is more challenging and less glamorous than it sounds. In an effort to appeal to as many contestants and viewers as possible, many bachelors come off as scripted, inauthentic, and boring. Some cave under pressure and confess too much of their feelings, too soon, to too many women and ultimately leave them heartbroken when they choose someone else and send them home. 

While many may argue that reality shows depict an unrealistic environment, Joey’s authenticity and high level of emotional intelligence are unmistakably genuine. From providing a safe space for Madina after she felt bullied, to expressing admiration for Daisy’s vulnerability with her hearing loss and cochlear implant, and praising Kelsey’s strength after the death of her mother, Joey knocks it out of the park every time with his compassionate and connecting responses. It all starts with empathy. 

Joey is expert-level empathetic. 

Brené Brown helps us shed light on [this] in her wonderful YouTube short on the difference between empathy and sympathy. She explains that “empathy fuels connection, while sympathy drives disconnection.” 

Empathy contains four main attributes

  1. Perspective-taking: recognizing someone’s perspective as their truth
  2. Staying curious and not judgmental
  3. Recognizing emotion in others 
  4. Communicating that emotion back to them with validation

Brown goes further, “Empathy is a vulnerable choice because in order to connect with you, I have to connect with something inside myself that knows that feeling.” Joey is a pro at this. 

Watch Joey’s empathy in action. 

Let’s break down a conversation he has with contestant Lexi, who just shared with him her diagnosis of Stage 5 endometriosis. Lexi talks about endometriosis, the pain she’s felt, and the devastating impact it had on her last relationship. Watch the clip from S28 E4 here

Notice how Joey stays curious and practices perspective-taking.

Joey didn’t know what endometriosis was or what it meant to Lexi, but he stayed empathetic and curious. You can see the authentic emotion on his face as she talks. While he tries to take in her perspective and connect with her experiences, he’s also honest about the areas he could never personally understand. 

Joey: “Thank you for sharing that with me first. I know that’s not something easy to talk about, and it can be scary at times. But I appreciate that you trust me and feel open enough to share something that personal and intimate with me. I’m also very sorry that’s something you had to deal with and a reason for your last relationship ending. I can’t even imagine how hard that is to try to accept.” 

Notice how Joey communicates through body language. 

As Lexi talks, Joey is very aware of how he’s showing up physically. He makes consistent eye contact, intentionally softens, and allows his empathy to show on his face and in his eyes. He actually leans over to wipe away her tears. Joey does this throughout the show during emotional conversations to show that he’s present, sees their pain, and wants to connect with them and show them that they’re not alone with their pain.

Joey: “I just…I can sit here and think of how much that was for someone to hold onto and bear, especially someone who has, I can see, the motherly instinct that you have and the want to create a family. Yeah, that’s a lot to hold. But I don’t want you to think in any way that’s something that I hear, and it makes me want to run away…

“It doesn’t scare me in any sense. And there are a lot of other ways to be able to create a family through adoption and other things too. Things happen for a reason, they make you stronger and they define who you are. 

“You need to know how special you are and how much you deserve everything…I can understand from any type of past experience when something like that comes out, you just, you think theres something that’s wrong with you. There isn’t. That shouldn’t ever make someone run away or be afraid of being in a relationship with Lexi, because there’s so much more to Lexi than just that.”

Notice how Joey recognizes, validates, and reassures her emotions. 

Watching this conversation transpire made me emotional as a viewer because Joey so beautifully picked up on Lexi’s fears of potentially struggling to create a family in the future, her longings to become a mother, and her insecurities that there’s something wrong with her that will make her less valuable to a future partner. 

He summarizes and validates her emotions, shares that he understands the feeling of something being wrong with you (maybe even called on a personal experience where he’d felt the same way), and then provides reassurance and support – I’m here, That doesn’t scare me or make me want to run away. You can see how comforted, soothed, and supported she felt by Joey. 

Later in the season (S28 E6), Lexi reflects to Joey how his empathic response deeply comforted her: “I can sincerely say I felt so heard and respected and you made me feel like a whole person and I’ve never felt that way in a relationship… I will forever remember that conversation.” 

This is the power of vulnerability and empathy — it can impact someone far beyond one conversation. 

Joey deftly navigates conflict 

In S28 E7, contestant Maria shares her struggle with seeing Joey’s relationships with other women continue to grow. One week before the meaningful “hometown dates,” where the final four contestants bring the bachelor home to meet their family, she is fighting against her own insecurities, individual relationship needs, and their incongruence with the Bachelor process.

Watch Joey use vulnerability to navigate conflict.  

Maria’s internal conflict is so intense that she tells Joey she is considering ending the relationship and leaving the process altogether. Watch the clip here. This information took Joey off guard and triggered his fears about the nature of the bachelor’s journey – “that the right person possibly couldn’t see themselves doing this in this way.” 

Joey is aware that it’s a big request to ask the contestants to develop feelings for him on the show, considering there’s a high chance that they might not be selected. However, the rules and structure of the television show are not flexible, and Joey is worried that he may not be able to convince someone to stay.

Maria and Joey’s conflict is what John and Julie Gottman would describe as a perpetual problem, “a problem that centers around fundamental differences in lifestyle needs.” When navigating perpetual problems, the Gottmans advise not to try to resolve the conflict but instead move from gridlock to dialogue and open up to your partner about your dreams and fears within the conflict. 

This next dialogue happens after the previous clip ends. Maria returns and expresses that she wants to continue the process despite her fears. Joey listened carefully and empathetically and then took the opportunity to continue to open up to Maria about his fears and dreams. 

Maria: “I think out loud a lot. And I say things and I don’t want you to ever think that it’s you that I’m running from. Because of how I feel with you, I’m scared. I don’t like seeing you with the other women. I think it got the best of me.”

Notice how Joey validates, empathizes with, and reassures her fears. 

Joey: “It was real, it was real. I don’t think it was an overreaction… I don’t want you to ever not be that side of yourself. I want you to feel comfortable to talk through what you’re feeling. I know dating you would be that. I know being in an engagement and being married to you would be that. So I accept that side of you. You’re here because I love that side of you, too. I think it makes you who you are.” 

Notice how Joey narrates his fear and shares his dream within the conflict. 

Joey: “But just like you have fears, I have fears too. It does suck that there’s a possibility that it won’t work out, I get that. [he references his experience making it to the final two and being sent home by Charity on The Bachelorette]. She didn’t choose me. But I’m here now, and I learned from it, and I’m better from it, too… 

“[It] scares me because it seemed like you were just about to walk out. If you felt the way I felt, there would be no way you would be doing that. That makes me want to hold back from letting the feelings that I’m truthfully feeling start to develop, too. Whoever I choose at the end, I’m in. Nothing I see, nothing I hear will change from where I’m at because that’s how I am. And you have to start believing that it can be you.” 

Joey does a wonderful job vulnerably sharing his fear of being rejected again and his dream of a partnership where each chooses the other equally and unconditionally. He can’t change their situation, as there are still three more weeks in the process before he makes his final decision. But he can still build a connection with Maria within the conflict.

Notice how Joey expresses a positive need to give him the reassurance he needs to continue to show up in an open way.

Joey: “I need someone that’s in it fully. So, do you still want to be here? What I need and I hope will happen is you consistently talking through it with me but you feeling like you can still be here.”

Negative emotions like fear and shame often drive us toward negative communication, like blame, criticism, or shutting down. Communicating a positive need or “wish” instead of criticism is a brave and far more effective way to build connection and find success in getting your needs met. When you are getting your needs met, you can show up better for your partner and meet their needs more sustainably, generating a positive relationship cycle.

Joey displayed impressive courage by being vulnerable. He communicates from a strong foundation of self-worth and knowledge of what he deserves. 

Learnings beyond The Bachelor 

Many fans remarked that Joey’s season felt different right from the start. Long-time and new Bachelor fans remark how deeply Joey connects with so many of his female contestants, basing relationships on genuine curiosity, patient listening, and expressive empathy. 

Joey serves as a great role model for effective verbal and nonverbal communication in forming authentic and meaningful relationships, regardless of their duration or intensity.

While you can learn a lot more than you probably thought about communication and empathy skills from from this season of The Bachelor, you can learn far more from individual therapy. If you’re interested in booking with us, we have availability for in-person sessions at our Charlotte, NC office or virtually for residents of NC and SC.  

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