American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

Do You Choose the Lady or the Tiger?

by Steve Ritch

Associates Insights - 275As a child, I enjoyed myths and fables. I loved reading about distant lands and magical tales of heroines and heroes who fought against the odds. Quite often, these protagonists faced "no win" situations, such as in Frank R. Stockton's, The Lady or the Tiger.

The tale begins when a cruel king discovers that his daughter, a beautiful princess, has taken a lover far beneath her station in life. The king punishes the lover by making him endure the ancient trial of the lady or the tiger. The trial is conducted in the large arena in the center of the city and requires the defendant to choose between one of two doors that open into the arena. Behind one door is a lovely lady whom the man must marry immediately (no matter his true desire); behind the other door is a half-starved, ferocious tiger.

Mr. Stockton poses the ethical dilemma of the princess to the reader. The lady whom the king has chosen is one of the princess's handmaidens whom the princess despises and suspects of coveting her lover. Choosing the other door would release the tiger and result in a gruesome death for her beloved. Either choice would mean that the princess will lose her lover forever.

On the day of his trial, the lover looks up to the princess for a clue as to which door to choose. The princess immediately gives a covert signal for him to select the door on the right. Did the princess doom him to suffer death by tiger or did she send him into the arms of her reviled servant? Readers are left to contemplate the fate of the lover based on his or her own interpretation.

Sometimes in our professional lives, we are faced with similar predicaments. We may be caught in an ethical or professional situation that does not seem to have a clear solution. Perhaps we are faced with a quandary that forces us to choose between honor and duty. Perhaps we must make an unpopular decision that will ultimately be the best for all concerned, but may not be easy to live with in the beginning. How do you handle situations like these? What are some of the resources available to help you?

As an audiology assistant or a speech-language pathology assistant (SLPA), you are fortunate to have the insight and expertise of your supervisor to help guide you through professional dilemmas that you may encounter. Your supervisor is your most valuable asset in terms of proven procedures and appropriate tasks related to your position. Their academic and clinical training provide the background and decision-making skills that are necessary for effective treatment; in addition, the practical experience and expertise developed over time—often with various client populations—supports unique insights. Your supervisor has a vested interest in offering you the best direction and information available to provide the highest quality of service to the clients you both serve.

Likewise, if you (and your supervisor) need additional resources to help with the challenging decisions you may sometimes face, the ASHA website is filled with practice and clinical information to help guide you both. Some of these select resources include the following:

In conclusion, as much as I enjoy fables and as much as I like the tale of The Lady or the Tiger, I do not believe in "no-win" situations. I believe that we always have resources available to help us make the best of any difficult decisions we may face. Ultimately, we all have to seek counsel and gather the best information available to make our decisions. Then, we can take an informed action.

What resources do you use to make your decisions? Who do you look to for guidance? Which do you choose—the lady or the tiger?

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