Ben Carson's Secret Weapon

WILTON, IA - NOVEMBER 22:  Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks to guests at a barbeque hosted by Jeff Kauffma
WILTON, IA - NOVEMBER 22: Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson speaks to guests at a barbeque hosted by Jeff Kauffman, chairman of the Republican party of Iowa, on November 22, 2015 in Wilton, Iowa. The event, which was also attended by rival candidate Carly Fiorina, was one of three scheduled campaign stops for Carson in Iowa today. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The phenomenon of Ben Carson's success as a candidate has folks scratching their heads. Having never been elected to any political office, with no impressive experience in anything except the operating room, and now revealing that he knows nothing about foreign affairs (he said China was involved in the ISIS crisis!), he continues to poll at or next to the top.

How come?

Because he has a secret weapon that affects the public subconsciously in such a way that it convinces them he is a truly powerful, thoughtful, problem-solving leader. It doesn't matter what he says. His demeanor and that secret weapon do all the convincing for him.

And the weapon? His tone of voice.

Sound ridiculous? Not when you understand what makes up any first impression. What causes people to react positively to anyone talking to them -- especially strangers? To be moved into believing, listening, admiring, even wanting to follow? Here are the components, based on long-accepted original research by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, that shows what changes audience attitudes right from the start. It's the 55-38-7 rule:

What Creates First Impressions
55% body language
38% tone of voice
7% words

I have demonstrated this a thousand times in my communication seminars. And when the audience members say "What? Tone of voice?" all I have to ask them is how quickly did they know they were in trouble when Mom or Dad called them. Right? How quickly do you recognize troubled, gleeful or irritated tones of voice when you speak to anyone, and how does that change the conversation and your intentions?

So here we are, looking for character, smarts, strength and leadership in choosing tomorrow's candidates. Consider the tones you've heard from all the candidates in the Republican debates. Combative, strident, attacking -- they signal an argumentative, belligerent approach to issues, perhaps a quick temper, not exactly the foremost qualities needed in making critical decisions and handling highly-charged confrontations.

In contrast, Carson sounds so reasonable, so thoughtful in his measured pronouncements. His softer, slower tone makes for such a contrast to all the snide remarks and the argumentative responses of his competitors. It gives an implied reassurance that he thinks first, considers and decides calmly that he is in control, that no problem would be too large or difficult, no issue would overtake his calm, thoughtful demeanor. That's how his secret weapon -- that tone of voice -- presents him as a clear-thinking, strong and unflappable leader, always in control.

Result? He sounds so paternal, so "don't worry, I can take care of anything" that he's illogically beating seasoned politicians and of course, going toe to toe with "the Donald." Next debate, close your eyes and listen for a while. See what character qualities come through to you just from their tones of voice.