Teach yourself how to engage with people with this introvert's guide to small talk

Mark Kennedy / Staff file photo

"Don't talk to strangers!" Parents drum those words into their kids. "Stranger danger" is the first pair of rhyming words that some children learn outside of a Dr. Seuss book.

It can be a dangerous world, of course. Everybody gets that.

But here's the thing. To be a smart, happy adult, young people must gain comfort talking to strangers. Not sketchy people in a dark alley, maybe, but people they meet in college, or in the workplace or in everyday encounters (in the line at Starbucks, say).

Our older son went off to college in Alabama last fall. He picked a campus where he would have no built-in friends. He did the same kind of thing this summer, opting to work at summer camp in upstate New York where he literally knew nobody.