In the last few years, each new season in the Bachelor franchise has promised to be the most dramatic yet. But new Bachelor Zach Shallcross say his will be a departure from that.
“It might not be the most dramatic season, but it’s the most emotional season that they’ve ever had,” Shallcross, 26, tells PEOPLE in this week’s issue. “But that’s not to say that this season will not have some drama. There’s no shortage of drama.”
The tech executive admits “there was a few instances where I think everyone could have handled something better,” but says that overall, “I handled everything the way that felt right. I was following what was right for my heart and my gut.”
He also claims viewers will get to see a new side of him. “Fans are going to see my full personality because I wear it on my sleeve,” Shallcross says. “With last season, that necessarily wasn’t the case. I think I’m going to surprise some people with who I am.”
Coming off Rachel Recchia and Gabby Windey‘s season of The Bachelorette, on which Recchia, 26, shockingly dumped him after their night in the Fantasy Suite, taught Shallcross to prioritize communication on his season.
“I think the biggest takeaway and something that I tried to maintain throughout this season is really encouraging all the women to be open with how they’re feeling with everything,” he says. “Having that constant line of communication, always being open and vulnerable through it all so that there aren’t any chances of a blindside.”
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On the first night, Shallcross looked for the women to communicate their personalities in their limo entrances.
“What I was looking for is, how can I see a real brief glimpse of who you are in a very short window?” the reality star says. “Because it’s 30 women, it’s the longest night there is and there’s not a lot of time. There were some memorable entrances. There may or may not have been some farm animals included.”
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Having such little time to get to know 30 women on night 1 meant for Shallcross, “it was kind of a work in progress to figure out” who he wanted to be his first impression rose recipient.
“That does carry some weight,” Shallcross says of the decision. “It came down to a culmination of a few things. But the most important part was if I could have that sense of comfort and enjoying my time with that person on a very unique night. That’s how I came to that decision.”
Being the one handing out the roses this time around felt “surreal,” Shallcross admits. “It was this feeling of excitement and kind of disbelief that I’m here, but also a little feeling of sadness of I will be sending home some women tonight. That’s the hard part.”
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When it came to forging connections moving forward, Shallcross says he wanted it to be a “natural progression.”
“I went into this whole thing wanting to find my best friend, wanting to find my future, and you can’t force that,” he continues. “If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen. If it’s not, it’s not. If you let your heart figure it out, the right thing will happen. I truly believe that.”
Shallcross says he had to keep an open mind throughout the process, as what he thought he wanted in a wife change “almost daily.”
“That was actually advice that Sean Lowe gave me was, you might have this one idea of who you’re going to end up with or this is how things should go and [you] quickly learn that that’s not the way that life goes necessarily,” Shallcross says of the former lead. “This season is a true testament to that.”
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He did, however, have an idea of when and how he wanted to use the “L” word.
“Saying ‘I love you’ carries a different weight to it,” Shallcross says. “For me, there is only one real love, the one that you want to spend your life with. You can have feelings of love for multiple people, but to me, there can only be that one true love at the end.”
Shallcross, of course, can’t reveal exactly where his journey led, but he teases, “It’s been better than I could have ever expected it, and I’m just so happy with all of it.”
For more on Zach Shallcross, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now, or subscribe here.
The Bachelor season 27 premieres Monday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.