Ah, the first few weeks of the term. Those heady days before the accumulated crush of assignments, essays and extracurricular commitments erode your patience and sanity. This is the time to let your hopes and wishes run unfettered through the meadows of academia. Revel in your relative freedom, for soon it will come: the project. The project will be worth thirty to fifty percent of your grade. It will be massive in both scale and scope. Worst of all, the groups will be randomly assigned.
It’s happened to all of us. A plurality (if not the majority) of your grade in (and thus, your time spent on) a class is inextricably tied to the fate of a few near strangers. A major part of your final average now rests on their physical health, emotional well-being and educational motivation. Your sanity, however, is a much more precious resource than a few ticks up or down on your GPA. Rude, lazy, weird and dumb: those are all things that have concrete solutions. Boring, though, is a much tougher row to hoe.
How do you spice up the pabulum personalities of your project partners? Perhaps they’re just shy. You could try to draw them out of their shells by inviting them to hang out in a social setting. Some video games, a stiff drink, an ill-advised pass at one of them covered up the next day with a vague text message. If that doesn’t work, try laughing at everything they ever say. If it’s not charming, it’ll at least make them think you’re insane (and no one wants to displease a nutjob by missing a deadline). Finally, if nothing else works, I suggest staging the fake manslaughter of a sex worker. The bond you’ll all form while covering up what they believe to be the accidental slaying of a hooker (really just your friend Gary, a stage knife and a lot of red-dyed corn syrup) will last a lifetime, or at least the next five weeks, which is all you need.
First of all, it is impossible for a person to have no personality. You just haven’t been able to see their personality because they may be extremely introverted and don’t easily share things about themselves with everyone. Keep an open mind and realize that not everyone is, or should be, like you.
If you are having a tough time in your group, the best thing to do is to take on the role of a leader. As a leader, your duty is not just making sure that the project gets done on time and well, and it does not mean that you are the smartest or the most capable in the group. Your most important job as a leader is studying your partners and finding out what their strengths and weaknesses are in order to make use of them appropriately for the success of your work and for a fun environment. As a simple example, if someone is extremely cheerful and likes to joke and tell stories, this would be the best person to put in charge of presentations. If someone is very careful with details and best expresses themselves in writing, this would be the best person to have in charge of putting together reports. If someone is very experienced in technical matters, they may be the best person to complete a SolidWORKS model drawing.
This may seem obvious, but it is not as easy as you may think. It requires that you take the time to ask questions and get to know the other person. This is very important in order to achieve what you want in your group. You will realize that, when people do what they love to do, they feel motivated, useful and more comfortable in the group as a result. People will open up, and meetings will be less boring. You will actually start to enjoy each other’s company.
Make sure you are not micromanaging however, because that can have the exact opposite effect on your partners. Always keep things light-hearted and never get angry at your group because you can’t see yourself in each one of them.