I have a confession to make: I am a communication junkie. And it gets worse: I have been following the reality show The Bachelorette (with bachelorette Andi Dorfman), entranced by the ins and outs of communication between the show’s participants. I admit that I am susceptible to getting swept up in the drama of these shows, especially when something happens that strikes a chord in my own life. “Reality” TV, after all, is about real people. Real things happen on the show, as well as to people after they leave. Real communication happens constantly.
This season, about a month after Andi sent one of the men, adventurer Eric Hill, home, he was killed in a paragliding accident. Their last conversation, the one that drove him off the set permanently, was not exactly a positive one. I was frankly shocked by how it went. The following is excerpted from their conversation:
Eric: I feel like you’re not being “the” Andi with me. I’ve seen little glimpses of you. Like the real you… And that’s the Andi I like. When we were building the kite. When we were building the sand castle. When you were just gripping leather when we took off in the helicopter. I came on this to meet a person, not a TV actress.
Andi: You think I’m a TV actress?
Eric: I see two different sides of Andi.
Andi: What do you think you see every day though?
Eric: Poker face.
Eric: And I understand. You do need to be fair and diplomatic around the other guys. But this is our one-on-one time. This is where you can show me…
Andi: You’re sitting here looking me in the eye and telling me I have a poker face on.
Eric: Not now.
Andi: But before?
Eric: Yes. When we would talk, I was having such a hard time reading you.
Andi: I’ve asked everybody to be open and this is what this is about and you have every right to be open and I respect you being open, I really do, even though it hurts. But I’m very taken aback by that.
Eric: This is the real Andi I’m talking about… Do you feel like you’ve been comfortable and natural all the time?
Andi: … Not a chance. But do I work my ass off and stay up late so that everyone knows that I’m here for them? Yeah I do. You have no idea what it takes. You have no idea how exhausted I am. You have no clue how it is to look people in the face and send them home. You have no idea. So for you to sit here and tell me I have a poker face is so offensive to me…
Eric: Andi, I’ve seen you smile, and I know that when the cameras aren’t here, there’s been a different side of Andi.
Andi: You’re continuously calling me fake though… Do I not realize that there are cameras everywhere? Do I not realize there are guys there? YES I do. But you’re seriously still insulting me. What if I sat here and was insulting you?
Can I just be honest? This is so far past healthy, this is so far past what needs to be happening. I want you to have come here and have had a good experience… I…
Eric: You’re so upset with me… I’m sorry. I just, I want you to be totally comfortable with me.
Andi: I’m not gonna sit here and pretend to just be okay with that. But I think at this point you and I both know this is not gonna work… I cannot fight for somebody who doesn’t believe in me and I don’t think you do.
Eric: If you don’t think I believe in you it won’t ever work.
Andi: I don’t think you do.
Am I missing something here? Eric gave Andi some genuine feedback on how much he liked her when she was able to relax and be herself. He tried to tell her he wanted more of that. He tried to tell her, while she was expressing her anger and pain, that he was now seeing the true Andi, the one he wanted to see. Yet all she could hear were the negatives and “insults” that, in my opinion, were not even there. She latched on to “poker face” and “actress” and refused to let go.
If I had been Andi, I would have been more, not less, interested in Eric after this conversation. I want a relationship partner who challenges me to show my true self, whether playful or hurt or angry. And I wonder, if Andi had known that Eric would die shortly after their conversation, if perhaps she would have responded with a bit more receptivity. Perhaps she would have appreciated Eric for his honesty. Perhaps she would have taken his coaching. Perhaps she could have seen, instead of a man who was insulting her, a man who was 100% on her side and wanting to be with her most open and genuine self.
Instead, they left it like this:
Eric: I do think you’re reading the way I feel a little bit heavy. And I’m gonna be thinking about how it all ended.
Andi: Me too, me too.
Now the entire reality-TV-watching world is thinking about how it ended. I hope others, like me, are reflecting on what’s important in communication and in life.