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Republican presidential candidate and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson speaks to reporters in Cleveland, Ohio on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2015, before the first Republican presidential debate.
Andrew Harnik—AP

As a neurosurgeon, Ben Carson was famous for his steady hands. As a Republican presidential candidate, he’s developed a reputation for a calm and steady demeanor, even during televised debates.

An aide told TIME that staying calm and refusing to attack his opponents has been a deliberate strategy of the campaign since the beginning of his campaign.

But as it turns out, Carson has a trick up his sleeve.

During a wide-ranging interview with TIME in Nantucket at the end of September, Carson revealed his trick for maintaining a smile and an almost sleepy demeanor even while standing next to Donald Trump.

“I’ve learned that I don’t mind being attacked,” Carson said. “It doesn’t bother me at all. … I just kind of look at them and I say, can you imagine that used to be a cute little baby? I wonder what happened to that?”

Then Carson laughed, no doubt picturing a certain 13 little babies.

Read Next: Inside Ben Carson’s Unlikely—and Uncommonly Spiritual—Campaign

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Write to Tessa Berenson at

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