Although it can seem like every man’s dream to date multiple women at the same time, being the Bachelor can be rough. For all the make-out sessions and extravagant dates, there are just as many emotional breakdowns and devastating heartbreaks. The show certainly brings new meaning to the phrase, “Love is a battlefield,” and part of the Bachelor’s job description includes having to deal with all the drama that comes with finding a soulmate on national television. Season 25 of The Bachelor is no different, and Matt James has already had his fair share of cringeworthy moments. From contestants with sex toys, to escort rumors, to a new group of girls entering the mix, the road to the altar has been a rocky one for our new leading man.

So when Matt’s in need of some sound advice, there’s no better person to turn to than someone who has been in his shoes. Cue former Bachelor Ben Higgins, who visited Matt on the set recently to share his reality dating knowledge. The List sat down with Ben via Zoom at his Colorado home to get the inside scoop on what words of wisdom were exchanged. To unpack a little background on what Ben experienced, the mild-mannered software salesman dealt with a contestant donning a unicorn head, a date involving farm animals, and the aftermath of being the first in franchise to say the “L” word twice.

Ben took a break from prepping for the release of his new book to have a heart-to-heart with Matt and also get a firsthand look at what he’s up against by chaperoning a group date. The former Bachelor had nothing but kind words to say about his protégé and gave his rose-colored stamp of approval. “Matt’s a great dude, and he cares,” he said. “He’s going to do great things in this.”

Ben Higgins actually delivered his thoughts in person during the pandemic

In typical franchise fashion, former stars visit the set to pass on the Bachelor torch — or, more accurately, the bouquet of roses — onto the current leading man while imparting the knowledge they gleaned through their own experience on the show. This year, Ben Higgins was asked to come to the rescue, so he packed his bags and flew to Pittsburgh to visit the new Bachelor mansion.

“I was super pumped because I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m going to see some friends,'” Ben said. But once he got off the plane, things were not quite what he was expecting. With precautions in place this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the former reality star had to spend five days in lockdown in his hotel room and test negative for the coronavirus a total of three times before even setting foot on the sacred Bachelor grounds. “They pick you up. We get in the car and it’s all COVID safe, boundaries and everything,” he explained. “You get dropped off at this massive resort. And so you’re just sitting in a room, no access, they have food that gets delivered. For the ten minutes that I was shown on television, that’s a lot.”

Tensions were high when Ben entered the house in week four. After all, it was right after five new contestants strutted out of the limo the episode prior, with no warning, causing a showdown between the OG cast and the newbies. As the first leading man who did not compete on The Bachelorette, Matt James did come in with somewhat of a disadvantage. “It is hard for him because he’s never done it before,” Ben said. “So he doesn’t know what’s going on in the house. He doesn’t know what it’s like to live amongst 15 other people, getting all worked up and anxious.”

Ben told Matt, 'Don't let your head get too big and don't let your head get too small'

So what advice did Ben give Matt regarding the infighting? Although the cameras didn’t show their entire conversation, Higgins let us in on their man-to-man talk on how to handle difficult situations, telling The List, “I think it’s the mark of a really good leader … how do they react to chaos and controversy?” When it comes to Matt, Ben thinks he’s approaching all that’s going down behind closed doors in a positive manner. “He’s taking his time; he’s taking his deep breaths. He’s looking at the situation,” he said. “He’s not overreacting. He’s not getting mad. He’s not getting angry. He’s not pushing people aside.”

And as for the former Bachelor, who was dubbed “the Perfect Ben” leading up to his own season, he told us that that ultra-complimentary description put him in a tough position. “I think it sets expectations up for you to fall short,” he explained. So he used that experience to tell Matt to stay true to himself and not allow the spotlight to cloud his judgment. “I said, ‘Don’t let your head get too big and don’t let your head get too small,'” Ben dished.

Matt James is not only breaking barriers by being the first Black Bachelor, but as we already mentioned, he also never competed on The Bachelorette — a past prerequisite on every former Bachelor’s resume — so Ben made sure to prepare him for the negativity and backlash that comes with the coveted role. “Like you’re going to get criticized also,” he said. “Just stay true to yourself and this is all going to work out. That’s been my advice.”

Ben Higgins’ new book, Alone in Plain Sight: Searching for Connection When You’re Seen but Not Known, is available now.

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