Whom Can You Trust After SHTF?

January 12, 2020

“Blaming the wolf would not help the sheep much.  The sheep must learn not to fall in the clutches of the wolf.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

Let’s be honest.  Preppers tend to be distrustful of others.  Suspicion and threat assessment is part of being well-prepared, so it probably comes to us naturally.  Still, your odds of surviving on your own are not as good as your odds of surviving when you’re part of a group.  Survival in a prolonged grid-down situation will require individuals to rely upon others and understand teamwork. I frequently receive emails from individuals asking how to find prepper groups in their area they can trust.  That’s a valid concern. This community is very skeptical of others and their motives.  The prepping community also runs the gambit from the outdoorsman to folks with well-supplied pantries to secluded, off-grid bunker dwellers.  So with that wide range of folks, how do you find like-minded people, and how do you know you can trust them?  How do you build your own unofficial or official mutual assistance group?

In this blog, I will examine ways to connect with and cultivate like-minded individuals you can partner with when disaster strikes.  I will also cover the basic signs you can look for to tell if you can trust the person or not.  While trust given can always be betrayed, there are certain things to look for in an individual that can help you determine if they can be trusted or not.


While this video covers the issue of knowing whom to trust after SHTF, it is critical to develop relationships with others you can rely upon while times are good.  After a potential, prolonged grid-down scenario, finding those that you can trust will become exponentially more difficult, so it is important that you start now. 

But what are the traits you should look for both before and after an SHTF situation? Over the years, psychologists and behaviorists have developed several signs to look for that are the hallmark of a trustworthy person.  That is not to say that a nefarious person can’t spoof these signs, and it is essential to note that a genuine, trustworthy person will have multiple signs for you to confirm.  While you may never truly know if someone is acting genuinely or they are a sociopath manipulating you by appearing and acting trustworthy, the fact remains that most people can’t be bothered maintaining a facade of genuineness if they truly aren’t.  There are easier targets.  You can look for these simple traits in a person to get a gauge on if they can be trusted or not.


A trustworthy person is more inclined to be grateful for your assistance or just your presence.  They recognize your worth, and they realize that you both are “in it together” when they are with you.  They might follow up with you with something you discussed when you were together, like a link to an article or information.  They might even bake you a tray of brownies or bring you something from their garden.  These are all signs they are grateful for you.  They respect and value you.  While not a definitive indicator of trust, seeing this trait of gratitude is a more reliable step in building a more profound, trusting relationship with someone.


They confide in you, and they keep your confidence.  Confiding in someone makes a person slightly vulnerable.  When a person confides in you, it demonstrates that they trust you and want you to be open with them.  As a litmus test, though, make sure the person isn’t gossiping or dishing out information about other people to you.  If they are, it is highly likely that they will take whatever you tell them and freely tell that to someone else.  If they, however, confide in you that they’re worried about a looming disaster, this is your opportunity to start a prepping conversation with them.  Maybe confide in them that you share the same concern, and here are a few, not all, of the things you are doing.


A trustworthy person will be consistently the same in their interactions with you.  They will also be consistent in all their actions.  If they promise to let you know something, they do.  If they promise to attend a meeting or event with you and meet you at a particular time, they show up and do what they said.  You learn, over time, that they are reliable, and you never suspect that they will let you down.


When you are talking to someone else, what do they say about the person?  I will often hear people say, “Oh, that guy is really solid.  He’s a good guy.”  I hope people say the same about me.  When other people say a person is honest, intelligent, reliable, trustworthy, generous, or the like, it is probably true, or you are both being deceived.  If a person says that another person is a liar, cheat, self-centered, or mean, you know that the dealings between those two individuals were problematic at best and, at worst, emblematic of traits that should result in your caution.  The person you are talking to might just be mean, but maybe, just maybe, they’re showing you a red flag.


As I said earlier, many people can’t be bothered pretending to be genuine.  There are too many easier marks for the con artist.  Compassion is one of those traits that can be faked but usually isn’t.  The good listener who keeps your confidence may have a compassionate heart.  If the person selflessly helps others, that is a good sign they have compassion and can be trusted.  Compassion equates to a genuine desire to help others.  Genuine compassion is often anonymous and can be seen in people who open doors, pick things up off the ground for people, wave drivers ahead of them, and a thousand other small acts.  It’s the small acts that indicate the actual size of a person’s heart and their true thoughts.


A person who is relaxed and confident isn’t likely trying to sell you on the fact that they are a good person.  It’s the person who has something to hide who may exhibit signs of anxiousness and anxiety.  They could just be socially awkward, and many people are, but if they are trying to get you to do something for them or there is some great urgency that you act right now with them or for them, they are more than likely trying to manipulate you.



Some of the best relationships start with shared experiences.  We are both waiting for our kids or both in a class together, and we strike up a conversation.  When you can look at another person and feel connections of shared experience, you both are less apt to take advantage of each other, as you see yourself in them and vice-versa.  After a disaster, everyone may be having the same crappy experience of the aftermath, so that’s not a good litmus test of trust. Still, trust is built up over time, so what is your history of shared experiences with the person.  Were you both in the military?  Did you both work at the same place?  Have you been kind neighbors?  Did you both buy the same product?  Were your kids both in Scouts or school together?  Whatever the experience is, the more shared experiences you have, the more you can likely trust the person.  They see in you what you see in them.


Trustworthy people are often good communicators.  The trustworthy person knows how to listen.  They consider other opinions and aren’t rigidly locked in on their own, but they are also willing to provide their unvarnished opinion about something when asked.  They don’t dominate the conversation.  They don’t belittle people or use condescension.  A good communicator indicates that they are not going to rush to judgment quickly.  They are going to give full consideration to things.  Note that being a good communicator isn’t just about speaking a lot.  It’s about what you say.  What is the message behind the words?  Is there a motive?  If there’s a motive laced in their communication, the person is more self-serving than authentically trustworthy.


A trustworthy person understands that they don’t have all the answers.  They are constantly looking to improve their understanding.  They may be asking you questions to gain knowledge and understanding, and they freely answer your questions because they recognize the learning experience as a shared event.  They don’t want you to do it for them.  They want to learn to do it for themselves.


Sharing is caring, as they say.  A trustworthy person will often share things they have with no guarantee of receiving anything in return.  They don’t consistently ask for their sharing to be reciprocated.  They aren’t always looking to gain from their act of giving.  The person who shares without requiring anything in return is someone you can trust.  Conversely, anyone who comes to you often saying, “Remember when I did this for you…” is someone who sees you more as a commodity or resource.



A trustworthy person is eager to help where they can.  They also aren’t very likely to ask for help themselves.  Time is a commodity, and the person that is freely willing to give their time when it doesn’t benefit them directly is more than likely someone you can trust not to abuse your time later.  They reach out to you because they see and respect your value.  Do you have a relationship with someone with whom you are constantly initiating interactions with?  Do you trust that person to reach out to you in a crisis?  The helper, though, knows you were going through a hard week or a rough experience, and they are the first or only person to lend a hand where they can.  Helpers are acting selflessly and are more trustworthy.


Trust is given in an instance, and it is betrayed just as fast.  All of those signs and indicators to look for best serve you when they can be assessed over time.  But what do you do when you can’t get a gauge of those traits in a time of desperation?  Survival in a prolonged grid-down situation will require individuals to rely upon others and understand teamwork. 

I frequently get emailed by individuals asking how to find prepper groups in their area they can trust. This is a valid concern for sure. Our community is very skeptical of others and their motives.  The first people you can trust after an SHTF situation are those with whom you have built relations already.  You might not have a formal communal bug-out location and community.  You may not even have people who call themselves preppers.  If you cultivate it, though, you have interest groups, like-minded friends, and family members.  Is your city offering a seminar on disaster preparedness?  Attend it and make a friend now.  Is there a class being offered in a skill you would like to know?  Take it and have that shared experience with someone.  It is a far more reliable trust if it has been developed over a long period and never betrayed than if it is a trust in the exact moment a survival decision needs to be made.

But, if you find yourself needing to trust someone, ask yourself what you need and what they need.  Are they bringing anything into your inner circle at present or in the future?  They may be empty-handed and desperate now, but perhaps they offer some future value.  Since you are trying to build a trusting relationship from the start, you will have to provide any assistance or accept any help with the same selflessness that is the earmark of a trustworthy person. However, you can remain cautious and skeptical until you see the true nature of the other person.  Sometimes a person offers nothing, but they’re teachable, and they seem genuinely vested in helping.  If that’s the case, trusting them a little now might turn into a lot later.

After a grid-down situation, be wary of people who seem mentally unstable, to begin with.  They aren’t level-headed in their thinking, and their erratic nature can put you in harm’s way.  Be wary, too, of people who are soliciting your assistance to do harm or raid others.  This person sees others as resources, and that means they see you as a resource too.  If they stole from others, they would steal from you in a heartbeat.  If someone comes to you to share something they have stolen by looting a store, that is a resource they bring, but you shouldn’t take it.  They’ll rob you next.

Be wary of trusting people who didn’t heed the call to prepare when you encouraged them to do so.  This person might be someone you can trust a little, but they didn’t listen the first time, so they play their survival by ear.  That means if they saw taking from you as the next logical step for their survival, they very well might.  Can we all be ignorant of realities sometimes?  Sure, but if you’ve had a hundred conversations with someone and they still failed to do anything, they will be of little use and not very trustworthy when the world falls apart.

If the person is a total stranger to you, you can still gauge their trustworthiness by assessing how much of yourself you see in them.  If they don’t absolutely need you for their survival, but they are looking to trade something of theirs for something you might have, apply the rules of bartering I cover in my video on that subject.  I will link to that in the comments below.  Essentially, never reveal the extent of your supplies and look for a fair exchange.  As you build a trusting trade relationship over time, you might also be building a trusting relationship.  Be wary, though, of a person whose sole purpose is to wheel and deal.  This type of person can’t be trusted because they aren’t looking to build a relationship.  They are looking to turn a profit.  You are a commodity to be exploited in that lopsided relationship.

Finally, even in the time-compressed period of a disaster and its aftermath, build trust incrementally with people.  Trust them a little before you trust them a lot.  You wouldn’t hand someone you don’t know the keys to your house or a loaded gun, so don’t be that open after SHTF either.  Maybe you feed a person, so they don’t die.  Do they come to you for their next meal or inquire about the extent of your stored supplies, or do they, with a clear head, offer to go somewhere they know a resource is and bring some back for you in exchange for a little more?  Do they offer to help you in some way without asking you to enter your safe home?  Do they respect your boundaries and let you know that they respect your boundaries through their words and actions?  If so, you can trust them a little more.  Think of trust like a rope.  With each trustworthy action, you might give them a little more slack, but if they exhibit a sign that they cannot be trusted, you will want to pull your rope back and consider cutting ties.


I am sure you have heard the old Italian Proverb, ‘He that deceives me once, it is his fault; but if twice, it is my fault.’  When evaluating the trustworthiness of an individual, you have to keep that constantly in mind.  Question a person’s motives and actions until you feel that you don’t have to anymore–that you share enough common ground and trust with each other.  The fact is that surviving entirely on your own after an SHTF situation is an arduous and lonely path.  Your odds of survival increase dramatically as part of an even loosely networked group.  Building trusting relationships now, over time, will provide you confidence that the relationship will also be one you can trust in a grid-down situation.  If you know nothing about the person, you can still look for the signs of trustworthiness.  Balance your sense of compassion with your limits.  Of course, your and your family’s or group’s survival is of the utmost importance, but your chances of long-term survival increase when you spend the time now to form trusting bonds with others.

What do you think?  How do you know when you can breathe easily and trust someone?  What’s your telltale sign or test to determine that someone is worthy of trust? 

As always, please stay safe out there.

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