Taste (noun) the ability to judge what is of good quality, aesthetically pleasing, or socially appropriate.

Despite the standard definition written above for the word, “taste”, we at Balissande Finishing School prefer taking a more philosophical approach. As written above, having (good) taste is generally about being able to judge correctly.

But we must ask you, what is correct? What is beautiful? What is good quality? What is socially appropriate? We offer these questions to you so that you may search within yourself for answers.

The School of Athens by Raphael | The Importance of Good Taste by Balissande Finishing School
The School of Athens by Raphael (1509 – 1511), in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican

At Balissande, we find taste to be in many cases relative to the individual, culture, and era involved. Yes, there is a standard for most things, but when you take into consideration time and culture, you will find that the standards vary.

The British standard of beauty within a woman is often different from the African standard. In the Western culture it is proper etiquette as well as common to greet people with a shake of hands and/or a cheek-to-cheek kiss. However, in India, many prefer to do the traditional Namaste gesture. If you were to study architecture, you would see a large difference in workmanship during the last two centuries.

“Good” taste can be debated many times over without ever reaching a conclusion. Each decade brings in a new kind of beauty, a new social norm, a new level of high quality. And yet, the term “good taste” still exists. This is the philosophical aspect to this term we would like you to contemplate.

We ask you to spend the next few weeks looking for differences in standards of quality, beauty, and mannerism around the world. Then, look for differences in various eras.

Although taste can be inexhaustibly debated, it is still a standard that must be taken into consideration when studying etiquette. By understanding taste, you can gain the ability to have good taste. This is very important since good taste can be seen and appreciated by all.

Good taste is about refinement – knowing what to buy, what to wear, how to decorate, what to do and say. It influences your conduct, opinions, relationships, and pursuits. It regulates how you see, how you feel, how you converse, and how you act. It embeds itself into every aspect of your life.

Having taste also helps to make others around you feel more comfortable in your presence. It encourages people to help you, befriend you, give to you. Generally, it influences how others perceive you, and thus how they treat you. It all boils down to knowing

Knowing what to say and how to say it can be the difference between your in-laws loving you instantly or never warming up to you. Knowing how to host a dinner can be the difference between landing a contract or losing it to another qualified professional. Knowing what gift to give your boss can be the difference between a promotion and a demotion.

We ask you to now take a couple of minutes and contemplate why having good taste would be important for you? How would it help you in your life? How could it have helped you in the past?