Emergency preparedness from a Counterintelligence Agent

How to be the Gray Man when SHTF

What is the Gray Man concept and what does it have to do with survival?

If you really wanna hide

bolin_dragon“Don’t be a fly on the wall. Be the wall.” Remember what they say about first impressions? They last. Don’t make a first impression. Don’t make an impression at all.

Ever watch The Silence on Dr Who? They could make you forget they were there. You should leave a person just like that. Why do people make an impression? Because they stand out. Standing out in a SHTF or disaster scenario can get you killed.

Some people just naturally stand out. Some are tall, some are large, some are gorgeous, some are loud. Why do they stand out? They stand out because they trigger something in your thought process. It could be that you somehow consider them a threat, a potential mate, remind you of someone in the past or are just wearing something that doesn’t fit with your expectations at the time.

The secret to not standing out is hidden herein. In order to stay off the radar of others, whether you’re an undercover secret agent or just trying to get through a bad neighborhood, you need to be the person who doesn’t trigger anything in the thought process of others. We call that person the Gray Man. He is invisible. It’s not that he doesn’t exist or interact with people though. He can walk through a crowd, take note of everything he wants, complete his mission or walk through an area and be out without anyone remembering he was there.

He doesn’t just wear clothes that match what everyone else is wearing, he wears clothes no one will take note of. He doesn’t just do things to fit his natural surroundings, he does things that don’t cause your mind to take notice. He had no color, no smell, no texture, no emotion. He wasn’t there.

It’s not just the immediate threat that you need to be invisible to. Once people are in survival mode, they’ll remember what they didn’t even know they knew. A starving man may remember the faint smell of herbs as you walked by the last time you met and then assume that not only do you have food, you have delicious food. A person who’s decided you’re his next target may remember that the last time he saw you, it looked to him that you were taking notice of everything you saw and everything you heard, and will plan diligently for your demise. In a SHTF or disaster scenario, leaving even a subtle impression can cost you your preps or even your life.

invisible-book“In a SHTF or disaster scenario, leaving even a subtle impression can cost you your preps or even your life.You may not at first recognize why you took notice of someone but somewhere in your mind a switch is flipped. You can’t always know what will flip these switches but you can attempt to study your targets and attempt to lessen the chance of being noticed. Ever had a conversation with someone who you’re attracted to and have just one movement or sentence switch you from being somewhat detached to thinking about sex? Desire is a basic motivation. Sexual desire, power, hunger; all are strong motivations that will shift someone’s attention from thought to action.

Smell? Really?

Some impressions are made when people notice something is familiar or something is strange. Typically something familiar triggers a mental note if that familiarity is rare or hasn’t been seen for a while. Have you ever walked through a mall for hours, not noticing all the perfumes, colognes and other smells until you pass someone wearing the perfume your mother wore when you were nine? Smell is one of the senses most linked to your base memory. The slightest hint of a scent not smelled in a lifetime will instantly bring you back to a childhood memory or relationship long forgotten. For a similar reason, strange smells, sights, sounds etc will cause your subconscious to take notice. You should have no memorable smell.

Be cognizant of any smells such as food, soap or gunpowder that someone would relate to something they’d want. Try to think about what you do, say or wear that may cause a connection to some kind of desire. This is especially important for females. When SHTF, there will be very few gentlemen and those in power will take what they want, without regard to repercussions. Be cognizant of innuendo or movements such as arching your back or physical contact. They may put you in a situation that you may not be able to get out of. At the very least, a guy could take notice of you where you may have been able to pass by unnoticed. Smells are just an example though. I use it because it’s such a powerful one.

Don’t let what you’re doing give yourself away

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What you do and how you do it is the easiest way to give yourself away to someone who’s trained to look for these things. It’s called demeanor.

Have you ever been talking to someone and they look away at something, causing you to look as well? People naturally take notice of what others notice. As you try to pass through unnoticed, make sure you don’t look like you’re taking notice of anything in particular.

This is especially important as you are scanning a room for security concerns such as exits or threats. Hollywood is very bad about showing an operative who’s either casing a building or on a surveillance because it’s painfully obvious to anyone who’s watching that they’re switched on. If they see that you’re security conscious in a SHTF scenario, they’ll first take notice and then they’ll wonder just what you’re so paranoid about protecting. You’re no longer the Gray Man.

Protect your home and family

Watch how people naturally react to things and start getting a feel about how you internalize what others are noticing or experiencing. Then practice doing or noticing the same things without any external response. People are naturally curious creatures. If they see someone doing something curious, they want to investigate. Just because what you may be doing would be perfectly natural for someone to do at that time doesn’t mean you should be doing it.

Remember: the point isn’t so that you have a legitimate excuse for what you’re doing, it’s so that you don’t leave an impression. If you find yourself trying to fit into a crowd of people and are considering doing something so that you’re not just standing around looking obvious, pick something that people won’t take notice of. Reading a paper may be perfectly innocuous but reading a book on theoretical physics or LaPlace Transform Analysis may get people wanting to know your story. What may be perfectly normal for the surroundings may still get you noticed. Also remember that what may be perfectly normal now, may stand out in a SHTF or disaster scenario.

With all this said, this doesn’t mean that you should go around in a security-lacking environment without the proper equipment, tools, weapons, defenses and supplies. It also doesn’t mean that you should walk around lost in your own thoughts and oblivious to the world. You just may want to look like you are. You should always be prepared for whatever you can without letting those preparations cause you to be in a situation you don’t want. See everything. Smell everything. Analyze everything. Be ready for whatever may come up. Just don’t look like you are. The Gray Man is forgettable, not vulnerable. Don’t give up safety for anonymity.

For a more in-depth article on this topic, check out this article on the Gray Man concept.

About graywolfsurvival.com

I am a former federal agent and military veteran who has deployed to combat theaters in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan and have almost three decades of military and military contracting experience.

My goal is to help families to understand how to intelligently protect their family and their way of life against real threats, without all the end-of-the-world doomsday crap.


  1. David Murphy says

    This all sounds good, now. When tshtf you will be dealing with gangs, bad and desperate people. You will want to conduct yourself at night in stealth. If not? You want anyone that sees you to know you are one bad ass, walking crazy man. You want them to know if they even say something you don’t like you really will go medieval on their ass. Then you walk through in a non threatening manner, holding your ground. Anyone that has walked through a gang territory or through some project knows this. You try to act any other way and you will get killed.

    • gangsters are idiots and pussies and they ignore the homeless entirely.The gray man strategy for moving through gang territory is to look broke and filthy.

    • killboxx says

      gangsters and thugs aren’t what worry me. They are predictable. The ones who worry me are the regular good guys and house wives. When times get desperate good people become more unpredictable and vicious than you would ever guess. Especially when they have children.

  2. Buck Russel says

    The Grey Man is always invisible in plain sight.

    The Grey Man is totally aware of his environs, his own capabilities or lack thereof, his weaponry and his levels of competence with that weaponry. He constantly strives to improve upon both his capabilities and competence. In public, he is always respectful, even to the point of obsequiousness if the situation calls for it. He always appears to be just a little confused by what is happening around him, while in reality he is alertly doing a tactical assessment.

    The Grey Man NEVER draws attention to himself by word, dress, action, or mannerism. The Young Grey Man is dismissed as a wimp, the Older as a doddering old fool. The Grey Man derives great inner satisfaction from having this portrayal of himself accepted by all he meets, for it means he is succeeding in his disguise of his actual persona.

    The Grey Man is a private man. He practices with his weaponry in private, or only with his fellow Grey Men, always in a secluded location. If he must resort to use of a public facility, he schedules his practice for times when he is likely to be the only one there. At such times he would probably wear bright clothing, to be remembered only as ‘that guy in the red jacket and sunglasses’, a quite different person from his usual persona. If right-handed, he would always occupy the leftmost station on a NRA bullseye pistol range, with his back to an observer, or the rightmost one for riflery or combat pistol practice. He would not have his name emblazoned on clothing or equipment, nor would he have any noteworthy affiliation proclaimed on his cap. “He’s just a guy. Comes every Wednesday morning for his coffeebreak. Always pays cash.”

    The Grey Man does not drive a pink Cadillac with steer horns on the hood, NOR does he drive the biggest mutherin’ 4X4-with-all-the-bells-and-whistles BOV in the lot. The older his vehicle is, the rustier, the less likely it is to draw attention (or to be stolen, for that matter). This vehicle is, under its exterior, scrupulously maintained and in excellent running order. If pulled over by authority on the basis of appearance, it can be shown to meet or exceed all requirements under licensing laws, and an obsequious co-operative manner precludes a search under the seats. The Grey Man does not speed on the highway: cruise control is his friend. So is the Highway Patrol: he waves to any he sees. If he travels the same route constantly, at the same times, The Grey Man becomes a ‘fixture’ and can be dismissed from conscious observation.

    It helps the Survivor to build up this persona of The Grey Man gradually and over time. The anti-gun sheeple neighbors will quickly rat out the ‘Patriot’ who is always loudly declaiming about his ‘Rights’ and ‘what will happen if they try to take my guns’. The Grey Man goes far out of his way never to offend anyone, imitating the duck which appears calm on the surface of his pond whilst paddling like hell under the surface.

    Be seen as conservative in all you do. A Survivor is a Grey Man, and that little old grey man alone over there in the corner is probably a Survivor!

    And that young guy next to him? Just another wimp? Or are they both watching each other’s backs?

    Making the other guy waste precious time in assessing the situation is a big part of staying alive. Practice being grey now, while there’s time to build your skills.

  3. Greetings, Graywolf, and all,
    I am new to this website but not to the gray man concept, as I practice alot of it to some degree in everyday life.
    I am somewhat surprised, however, at the “same route, same time” part.
    Granted, there is something to be said about being consistent, regimented, structured, disciplined, etc.
    But, unless I am misreading or missing something, at least in some situations, aren’t you setting yourself up for ambush, if the wrong people get wind of your routine?
    Isn’t one of the important parts of operational security not setting patterns, by altering your times and routes to/from?
    There are occupations known to have gray men/women in their ranks…government bureaucrats (wearing all gray, fade in the background), spies (ex spy chief, William Colby, the traditional gray man), and I just recently read somewhere, accountants, among them. My own practice has been following their example, by looking at photos of the well known ones, observing what they wear.
    Thanks for your time, and stay safe.

    • You can’t possibly pick a different route every single time you go somewhere. There are only so many ways to get somewhere. In those cases, you vary time.

  4. brian staley says

    Good advice, thank you

  5. I would like to note that while I am a big fan of the gray man way of life. We are in a sincere battle to regain the political forces in this nation and blending in and being silent is unfortunately what has led to the erosion of “we the people” being rightfully represented and even more erosion of our constitutional rights. Unfortunately we can no longer afford to be absent from direct contact with our senators, congressmen, and even local town government meetings. While we remain vigilant in working our best to protect ourselves and family’s we must also work to put this nation back on the right path again.

    • i do try to live the gray man life. but i’m not silent on a lot of stuff and in that department i’m big in the cyber world you do need the security of it but people like sabu where very much so the gray man in real life but on the internet was taking down multinationals.

  6. It’s interesting that a ex-coint operator would try to explain grey work, and blending in concepts in a blog with your pictures on it.
    I think I’m a natural at this…I’ve been alive over a good number of years, worked , played, played at working, and worked at playing, did some insignificant military stuff, and hey…….nobody’s ever noticed.

    Stay Gray t ful.

    Notoriety sucks, It’s what our current society uses to put a person in full view, just before they eat you.

  7. Being Gray Man means you are applying century old techniques to your life. A great book to read on these techniques is SHINOBI. The art of Ninjutsu. Not the silly B.S. of cinema. The art of invisibility amongst others.

  8. Screw being the greyman. Now where did I park my A10 Thunderbolt at?…

  9. I’m a chick and it baffles me how fast I get men’s attention doing nothing. No makeup on me, no polish on my nails, very simple kept un-dyed hair, minimizing bra, no bending over – always squat, usually clothes 2 sizes too big and I still have problems in daily life. In SHTF I seriously dunno what I’ll do to stay out of notice and safe.
    I’m decent with a knife & have a nasty serrated machete in my stash, hope it’d be enough until I can get to my cousins place in the woods where we are all supposed to meet.

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