Something as simple as “how are you?” could help. If you know your friends well and can tell when something is bothering them, ask if there is anything they want to talk about.
This can ease the pressure of them bringing it up out of the blue.
Be patient, as you don’t want to pressure them to feel uncomfortable sharing a lot at once. Your friend may need some time before they are ready. Balance between being caring and understanding boundaries.
Hear them out! Try not to interrupt and let them know that their feelings are valid, instead of belittling what they feel, no matter the situation at hand.
Be considerate and open-minded about what they say
Don’t be judgmental or jump to conclusions. Try to watch their face or tone, and do your best to respect boundaries while putting them at ease.
Ask questions, and show your friend that you are listening to them. This way they feel validated and you can clarify things.
Be sensitive to their feelings, try to just give advice when they ask. If they don’t ask, respect it and continue supporting them as they may need some time to heal before finding solutions
Remember that you're not an expert
You won't have all the answers. In some cases, such as mental health cases, it’s important to refer to mental health professionals. So refer them to good information, resources, or support services! Research professionals.
Look after yourself
Being there for someone else can be tough and it's important you take care of your own mental and emotional wellbeing.