The Danger of Blurring Boundaries (Anita Moorjani)


Doctor Neha: Welcome to Talk RX with Dr. Neha. Today I have a special guest, author Anita Moorjani. She is willing to ask her communication questions so that all of you can learn. I’m so excited to have you.

Anita: I’m so excited to be here.

Doctor Neha: Tell me, what have you been thinking about? What communication dilemma?

Anita: I find it really hard to combine work with friends, to work with them. That’s a challenging one for me because when we start working with people, even if I was to hire somebody who’s not a friend, we bond and become friends. It was different when worked in the corporate world and had colleagues, but now I’m hiring someone to work for me and I find it challenging, because once I become friends with them, I actually find it more difficult to get the work done the way I need it to be done.

Doctor Neha: Let me see if I’ve got this right. When you worked in a corporate setting, it felt like there were clear boundaries. You had your work friends and then you went home. You could say things and ask them to do things and leave and there was this ease.

Anita: There was an ease, and I had colleagues at work and they were people who I reported to and people who reported to me, so there were different levels.

Doctor Neha: Well-defined levels?

Anita: Yes, well defined. Today because I am in a world or in an industry as a speaker—you could say in a spiritual arena—my natural state is very open. I am friendly. I want people to be who they are, including the people who work for me, but sometimes it can be challenging when I need something done and people are just being who they are.

Doctor Neha: What’s interesting about that is the guise of spirituality sometimes becomes an excuse to blur boundaries. “Listen, Anita, I know you want me to do that but, listen, I’m just being me.” However, as soon as there is an exchange of money, it becomes about well-defined roles. There’s a few things that I’d ask you first: As an employer, how clear are you up front about delineating clear expectations, rules and responsibilities? How do you do that?

Anita: I’m probably not that great at it. Yeah, I can already see that when you asked that.

Doctor Neha: This is about how clear you are in making agreements with them. As you’re speaking about this, can you feel anything in your physiology (your physical body) talking to you?

Anita: Yes.

Doctor Neha: What are you feeling?

Anita: I’m feeling that what I’m getting back [from my employees] is a reflection of what I’m delivering. I’m not delivering clarity in terms of what my expectation is about their role. Perhaps, I’m blurring the lines between spirituality and work as well.

Doctor Neha: Isn’t it nice to work with people you just adore? It’s like this synergistic power. I felt it with you the first time I met you. There’s an ease, even like an openness in your body. I find that I can breathe deeper and I’m more relaxed. You know what I’m saying?

Anita: Thank you, yes, I feel that way. I love being with people who I feel this ease with.

Doctor Neha: So if we were working together someday, I’ll tell you what would have to happen. Before I get there, tell me what you’re worried about if you show up with honest, clear communication and clear boundaries. What’s the story running in your head that you’re worried about? What might happen?

Anita: That’s a very good question. The first thing that comes to mind is that I might be judged, which is interesting.

Doctor Neha: What might you be judged for? What might they say about you?

Anita: That she’s not as spiritual as we thought; she’s a spiritual teacher and things like that.

Doctor Neha: Judgments like “How can you be a spiritual teacher out in the world?” “Look how you’re behaving when the cameras aren’t on.”

Anita: Yeah.

Doctor Neha: I have to tell you something, Anita. When my family really wants to really get my goat, they say, “And who do you think should buy a book from a woman who just communicated like that?”

Anita: My husband always says he’s going to write a book exposing the real truth about me.

Doctor Neha: It does actually get me a little bit riled up, like am I not being in alignment. The most important thing, whether it’s spirituality or communication or whatever, is that we’re learning as we’re growing. None of us, even in teaching this work, is saying we’ve arrived.

Anita: Exactly. None of us would say that.

Doctor Neha: We’re just saying that we’re trying just like everybody else. And here is an area that has spoken to our heart and changed our life, so we want to share with you what we’ve learned in hopes that your life would be easier. What happens, though, is there’s this level of expectation that starts to happen that you must be perfect if this is the business you’re in.

Anita: In actuality, I never even signed up to run a business, to be an employer, to have people work for me. It’s something I’ve realized that I needed because all I do is speak about my experience and write about it and that’s all I want to do, nothing more than that. I’d be the happiest person if I could just sit and do that, but as it turns out there’s more to it than that. But people write in, and I need others to help me.

Doctor Neha: So how do we keep the boundaries clear?

Anita: Yeah.

Doctor Neha: Now that you understand what’s driving this, the thought of Oh, my God, what if people don’t think I’m perfect … This becomes about boundaries and self-trust. For example, you and I just signed a release around this free video, right? If we can’t have that conversation up front and agree to it when there’s no bickering or discord between us, it’s going to be a lot easier now than later.

The deal is that there will be a little bit of discomfort; you may wonder, Did I give her the wrong agreement? So then you get curious and trust yourself enough to say that you’re going to know how to handle what comes next.

Let’s say I was going to bring you onto my team. I would say, “Hey, Anita, I am so excited about you joining Team Neha. There are a few things that I want to talk about because I want our relationship to be strong. I already like you, and your friendship is so important to me that my thought is if we’re clear up front and we both know what expectations we have of one another, it’ll be so much easier to have discussions later on as things change.”

Anita: I like that approach to start with saying, “I really like you. I like you as a person. I like you as a friend, so let’s be really clear up front about the expectations and the boundaries.”

Doctor Neha: You can even own your piece of this: In the past I’ve been more lax about this and what I find is later on I’m sending mixed messages and I’m not as clear as I’d like to be.

Anita: Yes. That’s exactly what I have done in the past. That was very helpful. Thank you. That was beautiful.

Doctor Neha: For those of you watching (or reading) who might be struggling with blurred boundaries—work is kind of moving into your social life and you’re trying to figure out how do you get clear—first of all notice the physical sensations in your body that tell you something is off. Your heart might start racing. Your stomach might turn. Then notice what thoughts are going on in your head. Are you worried that other people aren’t going to think you’re nice. Would you rather have someone be nice to you and not tell you what’s really going on, or would you rather have them compassionately have an honest discussion with you? Everybody can set expectations.

The last thought is to tell you that I struggle with communication just like everybody else, and Anita has a part of her that sometimes doesn’t feel spiritual, even though what she’s teaching is spiritual. I want you to know we’re just like you.

Your Awareness Prescription for Boundaries at Work

Internal Awareness:

  1. Notice the physical sensations that tell you something is off.
  2. Identify the thoughts that you’re worried about (e.g., someone might not like you, they might talk about you to others, or they might leave).
  3. What boundaries need to be discussed in order to support your work relationship?
  4. Identify why you value this person’s friendship and why they are important to you.
  5. Ask the other person for a conversation.

(You might say something like, “I’ve been thinking about how to improve our relationship and wanted to talk to you for 15 min.  When is a good time for you?”)

Having the Conversation:

  1. Affirm how much you value your relationship with the other person.
  2. Acknowledge the ways you have blurred the lines between work & friendship.
  3. Set (or reset) clear boundaries and expectations.
  4. Get curious and ask the other person for their feedback/input.
  5. Listen deeply.



4 Responses

  1. 2 of my fave hay house authors. This topic was right on the money for me! I have let blurred lines create havoc in my business many times. For me I realized I would be-friend folks that could use my coaching services so that if some how I didn’t measure up, they would still like me. That did not serve them nor my business, leaving me doing a lot of coaching for free. Eventually I finally started to have frank conversations and say “this is what I do for a living” and clarify if they had a quick question or needed some real guidance. When I detacched myself from the work, made all the difference. Also thanks for sharing how your family uses your gifts to give you a hard time when you are being “human” now I know not to take it personally and that’s it part of the course 🙂

    1. What great awareness you have Dr. Sweta! Thanks for your heartfelt reply. And yeah, you can’t take things too seriously…!

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