If you've fallen far enough for anyone to notice, being the object of schadenfreude is likely the least of your worries. Still, it's not a role anyone would seek.

Social psychologist Richard Smith and theologian John Portmann offer these ways to steer clear of others' schadenfreude:

* Assuming schadenfreude often stems from envy, Smith suggests that one way to avoid schadenfreude is to "avoid doing things that make people envy you -- at least in a hostile way. Foster attributes in yourself that generate emotions incompatible with envy. It is hard to feel hostile toward people who are likable and modest."

* "If you are in a position of power and superiority, it might not hurt to make a few inconsequential mistakes," Smith said. "Doing so takes the edge off the invidious impact one might be having on others. Let people get a little pleasure at your own expense."

* "If you have advantages," Smith advised, "make sure, indirectly, that people realize you gained them through hard work and the overcoming of disadvantage. If this is not the case, gratitude and humility are in order."

* "Whether you mean it or not," Portmann offered, "you should express sympathy often to those suffering around you. You build up a kind of bank account that way. Once something awful happens to you," he says, "those around you will repay you the investment you made in them when they were in the dumps."

* Portmann adds, while "rare, very rare is the diva who can stay loved up on the pedestal forever, Princess Diana and James Dean and Marilyn Monroe are exceptions. It helps to die young."

-- Jennifer Huget