This week I read "Life Would be Easy If It Weren't for Other People" by Connie Podesta and Vicki Sanderson. (Thanks to Leslie in the NCAR library for getting this and any other book via interlibrary loan!) I had heard about this book years ago - it comes highly recommended in the world of corporate project management.
The book is very good and worthwhile to read for engineers and especially their supervisors (a broad hint to Ethan!)
It outlines four styles of communication: assertive, aggressive, passive, and passive-aggressive. It reminds the reader repeatedly that the assertive form of communication is the only one that leads to long-term solutions to problems. Unfortunately, the other three are more frequently used. ;-)
We are constantly training and being trained by others as to which communication style works best. If we reward people for negative communication, they will continue to provide it. If we respond assertively, we not only have a better chance of solving the ultimate problem - we also make negative communication less effective. Most people will respond by changing to more positive communication modes.
NetCDF is not and never has been a one-person enterprise, since even before the first release of the software, more than 20 years ago. I am happy to say that within the netCDF team, positive and assertive communication is the normal mode. Without that, I don't think we would have enjoyed the product success that we have.
The real value of this book is in helping me see how my own communications can be made more effective and helpful.